Shuttered Louisiana Casino Granted Extension

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LA Governor John Bel Edwards orders bars, gyms and casinos to close due to the spread of coronavirus in March, 2020. Chris Graythen/Getty Images/AFP

In March of 2020, Louisiana casinos were ordered to close due to the global pandemic but only a few months later the order was lifted. However, DiamondJacks Casino and Hotel in Bossier City remained closed. DiamondJacks Vice President of Finance Diana Thornton said at the time, “We have worked diligently to be a valued member of the Shreveport-Bossier City business community,” she said. “We are saddened for the loss of a longtime business here in Louisiana.” 

However, after laying off nearly 350 employees and selling just about everything not bolted to the ground, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E), owners of DiamondJacks, is trying to resurrect the gambling entity after unsuccessfully trying to relocate the license to the city of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish. In a referendum on a proposed $325 million casino and marina, the St. Tammany Parish voters rejected the proposal and P2E is back to the drawing board. 

February 9th was the deadline for getting plans to the state for the reopening of DiamondJacks but an extension was requested and subsequently granted by the state. 

Ronnie Johns, Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, stated, “In all fairness to DiamondJacks, reopening with the COVID, particularly COVID issues, the lack of labor resources, and also the difficulty in supply availability, we’re going to give them an extension and allow them to appear at the February 17th board meeting. 

“I realize you just don’t flip a light switch and reopen a property. The entire industry statewide is understaffed, there are job openings at practically every casino around the state. “ 

Gambling License Would Bring Greater Value to the Casino

Staffing is a major concern and one that will have to be addressed to the satisfaction of the LGCB. But the owners of DiamondJacks have already applied for a sports betting license to augment their riverboat casino offerings.  

And speaking of riverboats, SB 316 is a law that was passed in 2018 that allows casinos to move out of the riverboats and into a land-based location as long as the property is located within 1200 feet of the current berths and can show economic development.  

The DiamondJacks’ riverboat license is one of 15 in the state and can be surrendered but that topic has yet to come to the fore. Nevertheless, the more time that elapses in which a coveted gaming license is not being used is less money in the state’s coffers from the tax revenue it would produce.  

“We earnestly want to put that license back into commerce. I think the gaming control board has an obligation to put that license back into commerce, and we’re going to do that but in a way that’s good for the Bossier City community.  

“It’s my hope they will come in and present to the board a plan to build on that property something much more permanent and something much nicer than what they have now. We feel that’s what they need to be able to compete in that gaming market,” said Johns. 

The transition from water-based, floating gaming entities to land-based locations is vital according to Johns, who authored SB 316 as a state senator, before accepting the role as chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. 

“It’s the future of gaming in Louisiana. The days of the old riverboats are gone. They can build nicer facilities, amenities, restaurants, spas, entertainment venues. Those are playing a big part in the income stream and the industry, not just in Louisiana. It’s nationwide. It’s family amenities that are bringing people in.”