The state of Louisiana is poised to see game-changing developments in their casino industry as five gambling bills move forward to the state Senate for debate.
Two of the bills were sponsored by Sen. Ronnie Johns and tackle the removal of the current gambling requirement where all casinos should be operating on riverboats. Other amendments such as property size are also addressed by the other gaming bills. These new gaming bills are expected to have a positive impact on Louisiana’s poker industry.
History of Casinos in Louisiana
Ever since the 1980s, state-approved gambling has been a subject of much debate in the state of Louisiana. Gambling regulations and casino licenses finally saw the light of day in 1991 when Gov. Buddy Roemer fought for gambling as an economic development tool that would generate tax revenue and jobs.
When the first gambling bill was passed, all casinos were required to operate on river boats, sailing up and down the river. Gambling laws remained more or less the same in the state except for 2001 when an amendment was made to allow the boats to quit sailing and stay docked to offer gambling services.
Apart from Harrah’s in New Orleans, the 15 other Louisiana casinos continue to operate as docked riverboats that sit on the water and are surrounded by restaurants, retail outlets, meeting rooms, hotel rooms and other amenities. Although these boats no longer sail the seas, they are still required to maintain an operating paddle wheel and a maritime crew.
As the casino industry grew, so did the competition from other states. Because of this, a task force was set up in 2016 to study riverboat gambling and recommend whether changes were needed to be introduced to keep Louisiana’s casinos competitive with the bigger and grander land based casinos in neighbouring states. The Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force was led by Senator Johns.
Abolishing The Riverboat Provision
According to Johns, the current gambling laws in the state are antiquated and would need to be updated to keep up with modern gambling. His task force held months of hearings and consultations with stakeholders and regulators from inside and outside the state to be able to get an overview of what Louisiana should be changing in its gambling regulations.
The outcome of these consultations were new gambling bills which were reviewed and passed by the committee this week.
The gambling bills drafted by the task force propose that all riverboat casinos be allowed to relocate out of the water and be established on land no more than 1,200 feet from their current location. This allows the casinos to get rid of the maritime requirements without pushing too much inside the cities.
The older regulations had imposed a 30,000-square-foot limit to all casinos. These new bills want to change the size-based provision into a gambling-space provision to make way for larger slot machines now being used in the industry. Instead of the original size limit to all casinos, they want to impose a limit of 2,365 authorized “gaming positions,” which is the seat in front of a slot machine or at a gaming table.
While gambling has been growing steadily in the state, many continue to disapprove of the casino industry. According to Johns, the new gambling bills the task force are trying to push forward will not in any way expand the current gaming climate in the state. The new bills are not looking to increase the number of gambling licenses the state can issue, nor does it look to allow online gambling or sports-betting. Johns emphasized that these bills were designed to put Louisiana casinos on a level playing field with those in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
Poker Tournament To Find Better Homes
Poker room manager Chad Disante believes that if the new gaming bills are passed, it will mean well for the state’s current poker scene. This will better equip Louisiana casinos to host poker festivals and tournaments, subsequently growing the poker community and the industry.
The last major poker tour in the area before the RunGood Poker series was the WSOP Circuit at the Horseshoe casino way back in 2013. But the size of the casinos have been detrimental to attracting bigger tournaments to the area. The restricted space currently limits his poker room to just 14 tables.
In a statement, Disante said, “I could have put five more tables out there, but don’t have the space. We got everybody seated, but I had to have 50 people wait for hours as alternates. Everybody wants it here. We’ve got to get the legislation through.”

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