Casino support contract blocked in La. House
BATON ROUGE - Louisiana's state senators Wednesday blocked approval of a $3.6 million casino support services contract for New Orleans amid complaints that the city's new smoking ban likely will cause the state to lose money.
The prohibition against smoking in bars and gambling halls took effect last month.
Louisiana collects fees from the Harrah's casino, a horse racing track and video-poker halls in New Orleans. If revenue at the gambling locations falls, the state also collects less.
Estimates predict that, because of the smoking ban, Louisiana could lose anywhere from 5 percent to more than 20 percent of its share of the gambling revenue from New Orleans, which could total millions of lost revenue.
New Orleans lawmakers had sought approval from the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget for the support services contract, which would authorize the state to pay New Orleans for police, fire and sanitation services at Harrah's for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, said conversations continue with city officials about possible tweaks to the smoking ban. But that wasn't enough to persuade lawmakers.
Approval had been twice delayed. On Wednesday, the contract was rejected.
House members on the committee voted 9-7 for contract approval. But the vote was 4-7 from senators on the panel, with Senate President John Alario among those opposed.
Even with contract approval, the money also would have to be included in the state budget before the city could collect the payment.