SHREVEPORT, La. -- In Louisiana, the state’s 24 casinos brought in $2.9 billion from 2020 to 2021. But here in the Shreveport-Bossier City area, there’s been a noticeable decline.
The local market is currently down about 13% compared to 2021.
It’s an issue watched closely by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, according to board Chairman Ronnie Johns. He says competition from casinos in nearby states is having an impact in the Shreveport-Bossier area.
Johns says the pressure on the local market has increased with the construction of Choctaw Landing, the $238 million state-of-the-art gaming facility being built in Hochatown near Broken Bow, Okla.
“There's no doubt that the Oklahoma market is definitely taking away revenue in Shreveport-Bossier," says Johns.
The Choctaw Nation’s newest casino project, located three hours northwest of Shreveport, is aimed at sharing tribal culture and capitalizing on tourism.
At the groundbreaking in June, Chief Gary Batton reflected on the goal of the new casino saying the tribe hopes to host “people from all over the world” in southeastern Oklahoma.
Hochatown is the site of a historic Choctaw village, with some tribe members still living in the area. The local culture makes it a perfect place to display the legacy if the Choctaws.
Choctaw senior executive officer Janie Dillard says attention to detail and an emphasis on nature and culture will set the new casino apart from competitors.
“I think it’s the location. I think it’s outdoorsy. I think it’s the nature,” Dillard said of the place where the massive project will occupy.
Dillard says gamers and families will be drawn out of the concrete jungle and up the scenic routes to the centrally-located gaming facility that promises everything from lavish hotels to concert venues, to spas, to kid zones.
The four-story, 200,000 square-foot entertainment destination will feature 100 hotel rooms, 600 slot machines, eight table games, restaurants and bars, a pool, an outdoor venue with an amphitheater, a beer garden and a family friendly game zone.
These amenities are certainly enough to draw travelers from Shreveport and Bossier City, according to April Roberts, Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce vice president.
The Broken Bow area already attracts tourists from surrounding areas because of the beautiful surrounding lakes and scenery. While tourism and beauty grow in the Broken Bow and Hochatown areas, so does the Choctaw Nation’s power in the gaming industry.
The Choctaw Nation also benefits from not having to pay state taxes.
"That also gives them a huge advantage in terms of marketing their property, offering amenities, offering free comps and do the things that the other casinos they're competing with cannot do," says chairman Johns of the advantages of Native American casinos over the average casino.
However, the competition up north hasn’t caused the Shreveport-Bossier gaming industry to roll over and accept defeat.
Johns says he’s proud of how the market has reacted to the impact of the Oklahoma market.
“It's not, 'Oh woe is me,' and we're going to fold our check and go home,” said Johns.
The chairman says nearly every property in the Shreveport-Bossier market is working to bring new amenities, including new Sportsbook operations like the one that recently opened in the Horseshoe Casino.
When it comes to the future of gaming, can you still bet on the local market? Johns say, "Yes."
"The properties are still optimistic. What I'm excited about is that they are doing something about it," he added.
Johns also cited oversaturation in the local casino market as a factor in its decline.
He says a solution to the issue is not as simple as picking up properties and moving them around. He says legislation would have to be put in place to remedy any oversaturation in the market.
The fate of the Diamond Jacks casino is also a topic worth noting. Johns says the casino, that has become an eye-sore over the years, is about to undergo significant changes.
Current owner Peninsula Pacific Entertainment was given a deadline by the Louisiana Gaming Board to either reopen the gaming venue or sell it. The operator chose to sell to Mississippi-based Foundation Gaming — a regional casino operator.
“We've accepted their petition to buy Diamond Jacks. They want to do away with the legacy riverboat and move to a land-based property which they are allowed to do now by state law here in Louisiana,” Johns says.
Johns says not to expect any changes overnight, but hopefully the promised changes will be worth the wait.
With an optimistic grin, Johns declared good luck over the future of gaming locally: “Foundation has a good reputation in other states that they work in, so we’re excited about having them and I think that they’re going to bring a first-class experience to the Shreveport-Bossier market.”