LA lawmakers eye threats to state's gaming industry
A billboard in downtown Shreveport advertises Winstar Casino in Oklahoma. (Source: Nick Lawton/KSLA News 12)
SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) -
"Real Resort. Real Close."
That's the message on a billboard in downtown Shreveport advertising Winstar World Casino in southern Oklahoma.
"You've got billboards right now in this market inviting folks from here to come and go and game there," state Rep. Cedric Glover said.
The Shreveport Democrat admits Winstar makes a competitive case.
That's because Louisiana Gaming Control Law Title 27 restricts the state's casinos in ways other states don't govern theirs.
"We have a limitation: Only 30,000 square feet of gaming space, the actual riverboat configuration itself," Glover said. "Winstar Casino in Oklahoma is one of the largest casinos in the world at over 600,000 square feet worth of gaming space."
Louisiana also limits the number and locations of gaming licenses. said Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association.
Louisiana Revised Statute 27:65A says: "No more than six licenses may be granted for the operation of gaming activities on riverboats for operation from any one designated waterway."
Duty also credits Oklahoma with taking a chunk of the gaming business away from the Shreveport-Bossier City market.
"Going back to 2005 when you had that big explosion of Native American gaming in Oklahoma, that really hit the Shreveport-Bossier market very hard because it's a very short drive from Dallas to Oklahoma. Forty-five minutes versus a 2-and-a-half-hour trek on I-20."
Glover recalled how Shreveport-Bossier City casinos used to be in the position to be able to have almost exclusive access to the Dallas-Fort Worth gaming market. "We now lose a great deal of our midweek activity to Oklahoma."
These factors have helped push Shreveport-Bossier City down in state and national gaming rankings, the lawmaker said.
"The Shreveport market has gone from being Number One in the state and one of the leading markets in the country to now being somewhere behind Lake Charles."
As far as Louisiana's gaming business, in general, Duty said it has plateaued. "Our revenue is essentially trending flat.
"We are still one of the last jurisdictions that has water-based gaming. We are still one of the only jurisdictions that limits by gaming square footage," he continued. "So, yeah, we probably need to evolve with the times."
Louisiana lawmakers say that's why the Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force was created this past legislative session. Glover and Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, authored the bill that created it.
Over the next two years, the 11-member panel will meet on the third Tuesday of every month to study how to improve gaming in Louisiana.
It's an industry that brings big bucks into the state, Duty said. "About $426 million, I think, for the most recent fiscal year."
Glover hopes the task force will help strengthen and preserve Shreveport-Bossier City's gaming market. "It still employs, here in Shreveport, about 5,500 folks. But it's threatened; it's challenged."
The task force is scheduled to make recommendations to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and fellow lawmakers by no later than 60 days before the 2018 legislative session.