As the decision to “reopen the economy” during the COVID-19 pandemic is up to state governments largely because of the lack of a plan on the federal level, different states are naturally doing different things. Wise or not (mostly not, probably), many states are trying to return to some semblance of “normalcy.” For some, regular entertainment before the lockdowns was gambling. And on Monday, people in Louisiana were able to start doing that in person, as many of the state’s casinos reopened.
Gambling, but with limits
Early last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that casinos would be permitted to open at 25 percent capacity on Friday, May 15. Days later, the date was moved to Monday, May 18 and the allowable patronage was doubled to 50 percent of max capacity.
That’s a steep jump in how many customers are permitted in a casino and it was driven, in part, by the casino operators. It costs money to open for business and to the operators, 25 percent wouldn’t cut it. They also wanted to get as many employees back to work as possible.
“I don’t want to seem ungrateful but if we can only service 25% of the positions, it really impacts the number of people who get called back to work,” said executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association Wade Duty.
Among the casinos that reopened on Monday were Margaritaville Resort Casino, Horseshoe Bossier City, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, and Eldorado’s three locations: Isle of Capri Lake Charles, Belle of Baton Rouge, and Eldorado Shreveport.
In a brief press release, Anthony Carano, president and chief operating officer of Eldorado Resorts said:
As we resume operations at our properties, the health and safety of our team members and guests is our number one priority. We have been working very hard over the last two months to prepare for the reopening of our casinos and we look forward to providing the outstanding service and hospitality experiences Eldorado is known for in a safe manner.
Eldorado has posted its safety procedures on its website. Many are what one would expect, like frequent disinfecting of high-contact surfaces, hand sanitizer availability, signage for social distancing, reduced capacity in restaurants, and limits to the number of players per gaming table.
Not all casinos are back in action
Other casinos that will be opening soon include Boomtown Casino & Hotel Bossier (May 20) and Sam’s Town Shreveport (May 27).
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a press conference last week that casinos in her city will not be allowed to open during Phase 1 of Louisiana’s reopening plan. That restriction includes Harrah’s New Orleans, the state’s only land-based casino. The mayor will also put stricter safety requirements on the gambling venues.
At least one Louisiana casino will never host any more customers. DiamondJacks Casino & Hotel in Bossier City announced that it is closing permanently because of the financial damage the COVID-19 pandemic did to its business.
“We have worked diligently to be a valued member of the Shreveport-Bossier City business community. We are saddened for the loss of a longtime business here in Louisiana,” said Diana Thornton, DiamondJacks vice president of finance.
There are no plans currently for anyone to buy the casino or to inject any cash into the business to keep it open.