Baton Rouge casinos reopen, quickly applying new Phase 1 guidelines
BATON ROUGE - Capital city residents and visitors who love the thrill of trying their luck at games like roulette, blackjack, and poker in the exciting atmosphere of a casino are now, once again, able to do exactly that in Baton Rouge.
After remaining shuttered for about two months due to the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that casinos in the capital city were officially allowed to reopen on Friday, May 15.
But, the allowance came with heavy restrictions, and at least two area casinos used the weekend to restructure their staff and services to ensure those restrictions are followed.
After making necessary changes to keep guests and staff safe, L’Auberge Baton Rouge casino and Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge are reopening Monday, May 18.
State leaders have decided that casinos will be allowed to open 50% of their games instead of the original 25% rule. The new rule does not change how many people are allowed inside the building. Casinos will follow the 25% capacity rule other reopened businesses must follow.
Additional details regarding the guidelines that all Louisiana casinos must follow can be found here.
Louisiana State Police issued a statement, letting the public know they'll be monitoring casinos to make sure each organization is heeding the new regulations.
State Police submitted the following statement to WBRZ:
"Louisiana State Police is actively working with each casino property to ensure compliance with all requirements in the Governor’s proclamation, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board’s Emergency Order, and the LSP Gaming Enforcement Division’s guidelines. Specific casino openings are not available for release at this time due to the ongoing compliance review. Gaming establishments within the city limits of New Orleans remain prohibited from opening due to the Mayor’s reopening restrictions."
So, as Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge reopens its doors at noon on Monday, guests will notice a few changes.
For one, half of the slot machines and table games will be closed, along with the casino buffet.
According to The Advocate, Aaron Mollura, the casino’s vice president of marketing, said the deli will be open for takeout meals.
Plans are in the works to reopen the buffet.
Meanwhile, L'Auberge will be letting guests in to its reopened adult playground at 8 a.m. Monday.
But according to Kim Ginn, Vice President and General Manager of L'Auberge, there will be no live music, entertainment, hotel, convention and banquet services will remain closed.
For social distancing, the casino's customer capacity will be limited to no more than 25%, with only 50% of gaming positions open.
Table game seating will be limited, and every other slot machine will be disabled, L'Auberge said.
Floor decals and signs will be placed in areas where lines typically form to enforce social-distancing guidelines.
Restaurant offerings will be limited to prepackaged sandwiches, drinks, and snacks from PJ’s Coffee Shop and for VIP guests at Club 38. Otherwise, restaurants and bars will remain closed at L'Auberge, as well as the poker room, hotel and valet service.
There will be no large drawings, tournaments or special events.
Employees will be required to wear masks and will undergo a health screening each day before their shift, including temperature checks. Customers and vendors will be required to have their temperature checked before entering the property and will be encouraged to wear masks.
Slot machines and table games will be regularly cleaned and sanitizer stations installed on the casino floor and throughout the facility.
A fog machine will be used disinfect and sanitize the property every night, L'Auberge said.
One Louisiana casino has already said it won’t be reopening. DiamondJacks said it is permanently closing its Bossier City property.
“In light of the sudden, unforeseeable market conditions that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, the difficult decision has been made to close the casino,” said Diana Thornton, vice president of finance, in a statement.
DiamondJacks had been the worst-performing casino in the Shreveport-Bossier market.
In recent years, Louisiana's casinos haven't brought in as much money as they did in the '90s.
According to one report, this may be because more Baby Boomers than Millennials think of gambling as a way to spend a night. Besides this, the uptick in people who turn to online gambling has seemed to replace the need for frequenting riverboats in Louisiana.
That said, the gambling industry as a whole is still a large part of the state's economy.
In 2018's fiscal year, the state collected $726 million in taxes from various forms of gambling generated, about $422 million of that came from floating casinos.