Could changes be coming for Louisiana’s gaming industry?

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana law requires gaming riverboats to have a working paddlewheel, even though the boats do not traverse the waterways. The chairman of the legislatively created task force in charge of recommending rules for the state’s gaming industry called that requirement “ridiculous.”

That was one of the points made Tuesday when representatives from the global casino enterprise, Caesar’s Entertainment, came before the Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force to suggest legislative revisions to outdated state statutes.

Caesars Entertainment Public Affairs and Communications Executive Vice President Rich Broome, along with fellow company representatives, argued that changes to those laws could be economically beneficial for the state and gaming companies alike.

Task force chairman and state Rep. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, one of the authors of the resolution that created the task force in 2016, called the paddlewheel requirement “ludicrous.”

“It’s time to modernize our statutes and our attitude towards your industry,” he said.

Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, also a task force member, agreed. “We haven’t looked at these laws in a very long time.”

In fact, the Legislature has not revised its gaming statutes since they were first passed in the early 1990s, according to Johns, who told the Manship School News Service after the meeting that gaming revenues in state currently exceed oil and gas revenues.

The meeting did not just focus inside Louisiana. Members and those testifying also discussed federal law, mainly around fantasy sports.

More:Louisiana has a gambling problem

Witnesses pushed the board to support congressional action to legalize and regulate sports betting, which he said could improve the gaming system and raise state revenues.

Federal law currently illegalizes professional sports gambling, but some debate on whether fantasy sports constitutes sports gambling and violates that law.

This includes betting on events like March Madness, the Super Bowl and LSU football.

States, in turn, are struggling with how to interpret it.

Virtual gaming was not the only thing that could apparently use improvement. Another Caesar’s representative suggested shortening the horse racing season in Louisiana, which he said could help Louisiana Downs in Bossier City and the state become more competitive with other states like Kentucky and New York.

Three of Caesar’s Entertainment’s total 47 casinos are in Louisiana: Horseshoe Bossier City, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs in Bossier City and Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel.

Johns said Louisiana residents ought not to expect any gaming-related legislation this coming regular session, since the task force will not complete its work until the fall or next spring. This includes hearing from other licensees.

Johns said his goal is to have a “package of bills” addressing gaming revisions ready for for the 2018 regular session to consider. Johns said he wasn’t ready to give specific examples of what those bills will look like.