Slammed by hurricanes and COVID-19, the Louisiana gaming industry lost nearly a billion dollars in 2020 compared to the previous year. The industry also shed thousands of jobs.
Through November 2020, gaming revenue was down more than $830 million statewide compared to the same period the previous year, according to the Daily Advertiser newspaper in Lafayette. At least 4,790 employees were laid off.
If the same pandemic-related slump continued into December, the industry will be down a $1 billion compared to 2019.
The state’s only land-based casino, Harrah’s New Orleans, lost $50 million in April and May. Because of coronavirus restrictions, the resort took in no money during these months, the newspaper reported. Overall, Harrah’s was down $137.2 million.
The state’s riverboat casinos also experienced a sharp decline in revenue for the year ending in November. Riverboats were down $525.7 million, a 31.6 percent loss from the previous year.
Hardest hit were the resorts in Lake Charles in the southwestern part of the state. Two deadly hurricanes clobbered this area last year only six weeks apart. With COVID-19 restrictions and damage from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, revenue was down $218.7 million at the riverboats in Lake Charles.
Casinos in other parts of the state also lost revenue in 2020 compared to one year earlier.
Video gaming machines in restaurants, racetracks, truck stops and other locations lost $76.5 million through November 2020. This is a 13.2 percent drop from the previous year.
Thousands Out of Work
The job-loss totals also have been gloomy.
At the Horseshoe in Bossier City, 978 employees were laid off in the spring, according to the Daily Advertiser. Bossier City is in the northwestern corner of the state, across the Red River from Shreveport. Other properties in the area also laid off workers.
In the southern part of the state, L’Auberge Casino Resort in storm-weary Lake Charles laid off 441 workers. The Isle of Capri in Lake Charles is expected to furlough 336 workers on Feb. 1.
Two horse tracks in that region went through job losses last year. Delta Downs Racetrack Casino and Hotel in Vinton laid off 354 workers. Vinton is west of Lake Charles, near the Texas border.
To the east of Lake Charles in Opelousas, Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino laid off 246 employees in 2020.
Resorts throughout the state, including the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, also cut back on staffing levels. In Baton Rouge, L’Auberge Casino laid off 162 workers.
Sports Betting’s Next Step
While the existing gaming industry struggled in 2020, voters in Louisiana opened the door to new avenues of revenue by approving sports betting in the state.
In 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, voters in November agreed to allow sports wagering within the borders of their parish. The ballot item passed overwhelming in the parishes where large cities, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, are located.
When the state Legislature meets in April, lawmakers must decide whether to allow gamblers to place sports bets on mobile devices or only in person at a sportsbook inside a casino.
With this and other issues still to be resolved, legal sports betting is not expected to be up and running in Louisiana until 2022.
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