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New casino boat bound to make waves in the market - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

New casino boat bound to make waves in the market

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BOSSIER PARISH, La. -

For almost 20 years, there have been casinos along the Red River.

The number of gambling boats in Shreveport and Bossier stayed steady at five since 2000, but a resort that sounds a lot like a song changed all of that this month.

With its flashy new lights and shiny new metal, Margaritaville Resort Casino is expected to be the go-to gaming place in the Shreveport-Bossier market this summer.

"For the next three months, Margaritaville is going to be very, very popular. Maybe even into the holiday season," said Dr. David Hoaas, Centenary economics professor.

He sees that a possible positive for the entire gaming industry. Hoaas thinks if those coming in to the area to see Margaritaville stay over night they might want to check out the other casinos which could cause a small increase in their traffic.

"However that's probably going to be canceled out by the individuals that frequent their establishments going over to, if you will, check out Margaritaville casino," Hoaas said. "So I'm guessing the other gaming facilities, the other boats in the area are going to see some reduction in the number of people coming in to their casinos and obviously therefore their revenues."

Hoaas said that is just a short term prediction. Unfortunately, he doesn't see it getting better in the long term for the older boats.

"I am doubting as an economist right now that we can really support all of the current riverboats that we have," said Hoaas. "However it's not going to be the new boat that's really going to be in trouble. It's probably the case that within a year, we can very possibly see the closing of one of the other riverboats."

Riverboat activity for May 2013, 718,143 people visited the five riverboats in the Shreveport-Bossier market.

Eldorado had the most visitors at 243,994 people. DiamondJacks saw the fewest with 97,643.

Overall the activity is down 1.75 percent from May 2012.

The boats' total revenue reflects that.

In its fiscal year to date, Horseshoe was the biggest earner in May. Its house took in $203,197,824 while DiamondJacks made $61,400,052.

Overall, all of the boats lost about 3.6 percent from May 2012.

But how will Margaritaville shake up these numbers?

The Baton Rouge gaming market recently grew. Just last fall, a third casino opened there. Louisiana Casino Association Executive Director Wade Duty said it changed the market share.

"You saw one boat lose about 25 percent of its market share," he said. "You saw another boat lose about 40 percent of its market share, but you've seen an overall net increase in terms of revenue in this particular market."

However, duty warns, the Baton Rouge market is not at all like the Shreveport-Bossier market.

"The Baton Rouge market is predominately a locals market," Duty said. "You've got almost an exact reverse of that in the Shreveport-Bossier market up there where 70 percent of the players are typically coming from north Texas, east Texas or south Arkansas, so I'm not sure you can draw an effective comparison between the two."

But the older boats might not have to fold their hand just yet. Dr. Hoaas thinks they can stay in the game if they up the ante.

"Given the shear size of the Margaritaville concept across the country, they are at a tremendous advantage in pulling people in," said Hoaas. "They're really going to have to turn it up a notch in terms of the musical performances that they bring in, the comedy acts. Basically the things people sit down and watch, other than playing table games and slot machines."

Otherwise, the veteran casinos could see their profits waste away in Margaritaville.

Hoaas said the true effects Margaritaville will not be felt for a while. He predicted we'll really start to see it at the beginning of next year.

However, duty said it will have to be a full year before we can truly tell the effects.

The gaming industry's job market already feels the impact.

Before Margaritaville opened, it had to hired nearly 12,000 people to staff the resort-casino.

It held a job fair in April to find its future employees.

Hundreds stood in line with resumes in hand to get an interview.

They hired some people on the spot.

Louisiana Workforce Commission spokesperson Jacques Lasseigne said he had heard some of the people Margaritaville hired were from the other casinos.

 "Which is natural. It's a brand new place, a new environment, exciting," said Lasseigne. "The whole bit. And they may pay a little bit more money. People do tend to do that. And in this case that seems to be the case also."

Lasseigne said another indicator some employees might have jumped ship is that some of the older casinos have posted a lot of jobs over the past few weeks.

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