Casinos

Eldorado (left) and Sam's Town casino hotels tower above the Red River in Shreveport.

SHREVEPORT, La. -- Don't bet on at least one local casino reopening when they're allowed to on Monday.

Indecision at Sam's Town comes amid controversy over Gov. John Bel Edwards' phase one plan to reopen the state's economy from the COVID-19 shutdown.

David Strow, spokesman for Boyd Gaming, which owns Sam's Town, said the company is excited about the chance to reopen. But he went on to say, "We're still receiving directions on reopening from state officials. No reopening date is set yet. We're still working through protocols."

There's concern among casino operators about not only being limited to 25% capacity. They also can only have 25% of their gaming spaces going.

Operators said that raises not only questions about profitability, but also how many employees they can afford to bring back after a two-month layoff.

Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said he wants an explanation from Edwards. He was hoping to hear something after the governor held a meeting Tuesday afternoon with gaming interests.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Edwards, Shauna Sanford, says, "We are working with the Gaming Control Board and reviewing the resolution.  More details will be released soon." 

Meantime, executives over Eldorado, Margaritaville, and Horseshoe indicate they plan to reopen on Monday, after developing plans to protect everybody from the virus.

The spokesman for Margaritaville's owner, Penn National Gaming, said they're finalizing a plan with state and local leaders.

Jeff Morris added in an emailed statement, "Our new health and safety protocols are expected to include temperature checks, requiring our employees to wear masks, enhanced cleaning procedures, and enforcing social distancing requirements, among others. We look forward to sharing more specific details prior to the reopening."

Similarly, Caesar's Entertainment, which owns Horseshoe Casino as well as Louisiana Downs, said it plans to reopen properties when government authorities say they can.

In a press release, CEO Tony Rodio said, "We are implementing new protocols focused on the well-being of our team members, guests, and communities to create environments with high standards of sanitization and physical distancing practices. We are working closely with public health authorities, gaming regulators and infectious disease specialists to design our plan."

Barron Fuller, senior vice president of operations at Eldorado resorts, was quoted in The Advocate saying they're leaning toward reopening.

Casinos could go to 50% capacity if Louisiana moves to phase two of its reopening on June 5. That's provided there's no surge in coronavirus cases.

Louisiana is reportedly the biggest market to resume gaming operations on Monday. The state had an estimated 15,000 people employed in gaming before the shutdown.

Though phase one for reopening is Friday, casinos are not allowed to reopen until Monday because Louisiana State Police and the gaming control board need time to put reopening regulations in place.

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