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The Louisiana Senate will decide on the proposed amendment on the legislation regarding riverboat casinos today. A measure by Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles seeks to remove the provision in state law requiring riverboat casinos to be floating vessels on the water.
Even if the measure is passed, it would still require approval from the House of Representatives and the signature of Gov. John Bel Edwards. But it is likely to clear all the hurdles, because there is plenty of support for it, particularly downtown, which is home to two of Baton Rouge’s three floating casinos.
That’s because if the measure passes, Las Vegas-based Tropicana Entertainment, which owns the Belle of Baton Rouge near the Mississippi River Bridge, has said it will invest heavily in upgrading and enhancing its 22-year-old facility. Downtown Development District Executive Davis Rhorer says the area overall would benefit greatly from the multimillion dollar enhancements.
“If done tastefully it could be great for the area,” Rhorer says. “They’ve told me they also would do a lot of landside investments around the atrium—restaurants, coffee shops and entertainment venues that could be utilized not only casino patrons over 21 but by families as well.”
At a presentation last July to a Louisiana Gaming Control Board task force that was studying potential changes to the riverboat casino law, Tropicana President and CEO Anthony Rodio presented renderings of a renovated, upgraded Belle of Baton Rouge that would be rebranded as Tropicana Baton Rouge.
Plans call for converting the existing 80,000-square-foot atrium, currently used for special events and contains a buffet, bar, and front desk, into a gambling space. As its centrepiece would be an interactive, voyeuristic gaming pit with a bar and entertainment lounge.
Additionally, the casino would add a 12,500-square-foot buffet, new retail and restaurant spaces and renovate the building’s exterior. Tropicana would also renovate its adjacent hotel.
Tropicana executives did not return calls today seeking comment.
Rhorer says if the plans become reality, the dock space currently used for the riverboat casino would be available and could be converted into a docking space used by companies that could offer daily cruises.
“I’m looking down the road here but I’d love to see something like that,” he says.
At the July meeting, Rodio told the task force Tropicana has successfully converted two ageing riverboats in Mississippi into one land-based casino that does twice the business the two riverboats did together, according to minutes from the meeting.
Measures that call for the expansion of gambling have enjoyed seeming broad support so far this session, and 37 bills have been filed. The Louisiana Family Forum has said it is opposing all of them.
Source: European Gaming Industry News