(The Center Square) – Louisiana’s casino sector was in decline before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the slide has continued amid customer health concerns and restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
All but two of the state’s casinos took in less money in October than during the same month last year, according to the most recent revenue report.
The state’s river-adjacent casinos were down 15.5 percent, or about $21.2 million, compared to October 2019. The New Orleans market showed the biggest dip, with the riverboat casinos down almost 25 percent and Harrah’s land-based facility down more than 39 percent.
In the Lake Charles market, where Isle Lake Charles remains closed following Hurricane Laura, revenue was down almost 24 percent. Shreveport/Bossier dipped 8.2 percent, bolstered by a strong month for Margaritaville, which was up 23.6 percent.
The Baton Rouge market was down only 0.3 percent, with L’Auberge Baton Rouge reporting a 7.3 percent uptick compared to last October.
Louisiana’s casinos were struggling to compete with those in neighboring states even before the pandemic. Coronavirus restrictions currently limit the facilities to half of their normal capacity, and alcohol service must be cut off at 11 p.m.
Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, recently told the Louisiana Gaming Control Board that many players have been reluctant to return since casinos reopened, especially older customers.
Most Louisiana parishes in November voted to legalize sports betting. The Louisiana Legislature will have to create the rules governing the practice, and advocates hope sports wagering will be an amenity that will attract new customers.