A groundbreaking ceremony has taken place in Baton Rouge, La., to move a casino from a riverboat to a land-based location.
The Hollywood Casino is the first riverboat in the capital city moving its operations ashore. The riverboat is on the Mississippi River north of downtown Baton Rouge, near the state Capitol building.
This is the right thing to do,” Ronnie Johns, chairman of the state Gaming Control Board, told WBRZ-TV. “It’ll benefit the state of Louisiana as far as increased revenue from the tax base.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) recently appointed Johns, a Republican former state senator, to chair the nine-member Control Board. Johns is from the Lake Charles area, one of the state’s gaming hubs.
Louisiana is home to 13 riverboat casinos, one land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos.
The Hollywood Casino is one of three riverboat casinos in the capital city. The other two are L’Auberge Baton Rouge and the Belle of Baton Rouge.
Johns said there are safety factors involved in having a casino inside a riverboat, including storms and various watercraft in the vicinity.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Shaq’s Restaurant Planned
The $60 million Hollywood construction project, taking place on a former parking lot, will include a new casino with a sportsbook. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
Earlier this summer, the governor signed legislation allowing sports betting in the 55 of 64 parishes that voted in favor of it during last November’s election. Legal betting cannot take place, however, until the Control Board sets the rules to regulate the industry. That process could be completed by the end of this year’s football season.
Aaron Mollura, Hollywood’s marketing vice president, told the television station the resort plans to build a large sports bar in the land-based casino, and a Big Chicken restaurant. Big Chicken is owned by Shaquille O’Neal, a former NBA star who played college basketball at LSU in Baton Rouge.
Other Casinos Going Ashore
When riverboat casinos were first authorized in Louisiana during the early 1990s, the boats were required to journey into open water away from the port. That was changed in 2001 to permit the riverboats to remain docked. In 2018, the law was adjusted to allow riverboats to be scrapped in favor of land-based operations.
In Lake Charles, one former riverboat casino, the Isle of Capri, is in the process of moving onto land. The riverboat became dislodged during a hurricane last year and struck a bridge. No one was injured. The Isle of Capri is expected to reopen next year as a land-based casino.
East of there in the New Orleans area, the Kenner City Council has approved a 25-year lease for the Treasure Chest riverboat casino. The lease gives the owner, Nevada-based Boyd Gaming, the right to locate the casino on land instead of water. The Treasure Chest is on Lake Pontchartrain, northwest of downtown New Orleans.
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