BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A proposed $83 million incentive for Louisiana casinos has all but one legislative step left, after the state House’s tax panel advanced a Senate bill Monday.
The measure, from state Sen. Ronnie Johns, would let each of the state’s 15 casinos give customers $5 million in free promotional play with no taxes attached. The Lake Charles Republican drafted the bill to boost the gaming industry, which has taken a $122 million hit since May 2019.
“This is a tool that’s not only necessary for growth,” Louisiana Gaming Association executive director Wade Duty told lawmakers, referring to Johns’ bill. “It’s a tool that is necessary to stop the bleeding.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is partially to blame for the industry’s struggles. One casino, DiamondJacks in Bossier City, announced this spring it would close permanently. None of the state’s 15 remaining casinos have yet reopened to full capacity, and many have laid off workers.
Johns rejected a legislative fiscal office’s claims that his bill would cost the state money, contending the incentives would lure more customers from out-of-state, namely Texas.
“You’re going to spend a lot of money on our restaurants, our shops, our golf course, hopefully throughout the community, which I can assure you happens in the Lake Charles market,” Johns said.
Johns’ argument was enough to convince the House committee’s critics Monday. His bill, which has already passed the state Senate, heads next to the full House for final passage.
“No risk is no reward,” said state Rep. Rhonda Gaye Butler, who entered Monday’s meeting critical but left it in support. “We’re on a wing and a prayer at this point, so I guess we’ll just roll the dice.”