With gamblers unable to access Louisiana’s casinos after March 16, the state saw a 53% decline in revenue from February, in line with the declines other states have been seeing in gaming revenue.
Sports betting and online gaming are not legal in Louisiana, so the state relies on people to visit the state's gaming facilities — 15 riverboat casinos, four racinos and one land-based casino — to play slots and table games. Sites across the state also house video poker machines. For the first 16 days of March before the casinos closed, they brought in $$97,089,834 compared to $155,480,786 in February, according to figures released Thursday by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
Year over year for March, the state saw a 60.6% drop from the $246.3 million the properties brought in during March 2019.
Video poker revenue produced $32,189,300 in March; that was a 41% drop from February’s $54,935,653. In March 2019, the state saw $60,847,349 in revenue.
The state's stay-at-home order is in place until April 30.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has been a supporter of gambling in general in the state and of new gaming possibilities. New gambling bills in 2018 and 2019 didn’t get through the Republican-led legislature.
Bills to legalize sports betting were filed for the session that began in March, but there are likely more pressing issues because of the coronavirus and would likely have to wait until 2021 for further approval because it would involve taxes.
Louisiana hosts a lot of major sporting events and leaves money on the table because sports betting isn’t legal yet. The College Football Playoff national championship game was held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans in January.
With more states looking for ways to fund health, education, transportation and environment initiatives, the coronavirus pandemic could prompt some to take a closer look at the potential tax revenue generated by sports betting and online casinos. Florida lawmakers have already considered it.
Maybe Louisiana will, too.