Winter weather and COVID-19 concerns walloped Louisiana’s gaming industry in February, causing a steep decline in gaming revenue.
In February, Louisiana’s 13 riverboats, one land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos collected $151.1 million, according to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. This figure is 28.9 percent below the $212.5 million in February 2020.
The February 2020 figures are from the last full month before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe.
This year’s numbers are based on two fewer riverboat casinos than the previous February. The Isle of Capri in Lake Charles, damaged during Hurricane Laura last year, has closed temporarily. In Shreveport-Bossier City, the DiamondJacks riverboat casino was shuttered in May.
In addition, severe winter weather this year forced some riverboat casinos to close for up to three days, according to the New Orleans newspaper website nola.com.
Much of the country, including states in the South, were paralyzed by a deep freeze in February. Icy roads and closed bridges kept many customers away, even from the riverboat casinos that remained open during plunging temperatures, the newspaper reported on its website.
For those visiting the state’s gaming halls, casino capacity has been capped at 50 percent because of COVID-19 safety mandates.
New Orleans Slump
The largest falloff of any of the state’s gaming markets occurred in New Orleans. There, casino revenue dropped by 34.5 percent in February 2021, compared to the previous February. New Orleans fell from $55.2 million in February 2020 to $36.1 million last month.
Gaming wins at Harrah’s Casino New Orleans, the only land-based casino in the state, fell by 40 percent, from $26.6 million to $15.8 million.
The riverboat casinos in the New Orleans experienced a 27.6 percent falloff in gaming wins. This included a 35.1 percent decline at the Treasure Chest, from $9.5 million to $6.2 million. The Treasure Chest is northwest of downtown New Orleans at Lake Pontchartrain.
A low-key Mardi Gras season also resulted in fewer visitors to the state. Instead of parades for Mardi Gras this February during the pandemic, New Orleans residents were encouraged to decorate the exteriors of their homes and to find other ways to celebrate, including participating in a virtual parade on an app.
Typically, Mardi Gras attracts 1 million people to New Orleans and has an economic benefit of $144 million, according to nola.com.
The other markets in Louisiana, including Shreveport-Bossier City, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge, also took in less revenue this February, compared to February 2020.
In the capital city, for instance, the Belle of Baton Rouge was closed for two days during the freeze. Its revenue of $1.2 million in February 2021 was 46.9 percent below the previous February’s.
Arkansas Winnings Decline
The casinos in Arkansas also won less money this February. Like Louisiana, the Natural State was hit by severe winter weather in February.
Arkansas, which shares a border with Louisiana, is home to three casinos. They include the Southland in West Memphis, Oaklawn in Hot Springs, and Saracen in Pine Bluff.
All three Arkansas casinos took in less gaming revenue this February than in the previous month.
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