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Louisiana Casino Legislation May be Boon to State’s Poker Scene

Horseshoe Bossier City
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  • The recent successful @RGPokerSeries at Horseshoe Bossier City was limited only by space - and law.

  • The proposed changes in Louisiana law would allow riverboat casinos to move onto land and expand.

This is a developing story.

It was close quarters for the recent RunGood Poker Series at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City. The poker room is one of only two in the Shreveport-Bossier area, and by law most casinos must be based over water — the Red River in this case. The dynamics make hosting large-scale poker tournaments difficult, but some recent legislative movements may be changing that.

The Advocate newspaper, of Baton Rouge, notes that the proposed changes would allow the state’s 15 “riverboat” casinos to move onto land, “within 1,200 feet of their designated berth space and a limit of 2,365 gambling machines would replace the original 1991 cap of 30,000 square feet of gambling space.”

“Gambling interests will be seeking legislative approval beginning Tuesday to make these changes — and others — in what represents the biggest effort to expand the state’s gambling laws since the modern creation of the industry in Louisiana in the early 1990s.”

The newspaper also reported on Tuesday that: “Gambling interests will be seeking legislative approval beginning Tuesday to make these changes — and others — in what represents the biggest effort to expand the state’s gambling laws since the modern creation of the industry in Louisiana in the early 1990s.”

The bill in the Senate is sponsored by State Sen. Ronnie Johns of Lake Charles, which boasts three “riverboat” casinos. News reports have indicated that Gov. John Bel Edwards supports the legislation.

Hope for the Horseshoe

The last major poker tour to visit the Bossier City area before the recent RunGood Poker Series was the WSOP Circuit in 2013 at the Horseshoe. Since then, it has been a dry run for area poker players, and the Horseshoe is hoping the three-tournament stop at the Horseshoe will change that.

Poker room manager Chad Disante believes the success of not only the tour stop, but also the number of cash game players, will help bring more and bigger series to the property. With limited space and only 14 tables because of the state’s regulations, Disante was only able to add two tables just outside its entrance. Alternates had long waits to be seated when tournament tables were full rather than have open tables ready to start seating.

Also, unlike most traditional cardrooms, the Horseshoe’s poker room is located in the main part of the casino with slot machines and video poker nearby. Despite the challenges, poker players turned out with 1,020 entries over the three events.

“It’s been slammed all week,” Disante said as the series’ Main Event played out. “We’ve really got something going here. We’re already talking about getting [the RunGood Series] back in here in October or November.”

“We’ve got to get the legislation through."

Disante sees big things ahead for the area poker scene - especially if the new legislation is passed.

“Everybody wants it here,” he said of bigger events. “We’ve got to get the legislation through. I could have put five more tables out there, but don’t have the space. We got everybody seated, but I had to have 50 people wait for hours as alternates.

“I would feel with us having the I-20 corridor right here and Houston to the south of us, and the space and the facility, we can hang with them,” he says of competing against larger casinos in Oklahoma for poker players. “Horseshoe Bossier City is the No. 1 service provider in all of Caesar’s properties.”

Setting the Scene

In Louisiana, casinos were originally legalized in 1991 as riverboats, which were originally supposed to move up and down one of the state’s natural waterways with gamblers aboard trying their luck. However, staying in one location proved much more lucrative and now they stay permanently docked or connected to land.

An exception was made in 1992 for one land-based casino in New Orleans, and there are also three land-based Indian casinos. Harrah’s in New Orleans has held several large poker events, and other casinos in the area would also be able to increase their poker offerings if the legislation is approved.

“I would feel with us having the I-20 corridor right here and Houston to the south of us, and the space and the facility, we can hang with them."

For casino operators, land-based operations also allow them to be more competitive with Oklahoma properties such as the Winstar and Choctaw casinos, which boast massive gambling operations including major poker events. The Choctaw hosts several events each year including the WSOP Circuit and Winstar has found success with its popular “River” series.

Casinos in Shreveport-Bossier, in the northern part of the state, and Lake Charles, in the south, look to attract a big percentage of its customers from Dallas, Houston, and other parts of Texas as well as Arkansas. No doubt, poker players in the Ark-La-Tex would benefit from more tournament action and bigger events.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas, and the host of the PokerNews Podcasting Network's newest podcast True Gambling Stories. To listen, click here.

Photo courtesy of Horseshoe Bossier City

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