This isn’t really about COVID, either. The casinos are just about the only places where they don’t beat you to death with COVID restrictions. But it doesn’t matter, because the casino business is completely in the tank in this state now.
November was another slow month for Louisiana’s casino sector, which was struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s record-breaking hurricane season.
Diamond Jacks in Bossier City closed permanently in October. Hurricane Laura heavily damaged Isle of Capri Lake Charles, which has not reopened.
Those two closures contributed to a 23.6 percent revenue decline compared to November 2019, though only one operating property took in more money month-over-month. Margaritaville in Bossier City was up 7.9 percent, though the Shreveport/Bossier market still was down more than 25 percent.
The Lake Charles market was down 22.4 percent, while Baton Rouge was down 16 percent and the river-adjacent casinos in New Orleans were down 29.3 percent. Harrah’s land-based casino was down more than 43 percent.
Louisiana’s casinos were having trouble competing with those in neighboring states before the pandemic. Coronavirus restrictions currently limit the facilities to half of their normal capacity, and alcohol service must be cut off at 11 p.m.
Of course, the hospitality industry in the state as a whole is down the tubes. The thing is, there isn’t a politician in Louisiana – or at least, certainly not a Democrat politician in Louisiana – who gives a damn if neighborhood bars or restaurants lose business and fail. But the casinos they do care about, or at least they used to, because they get lots more tax revenue out of the casinos. That’s why, despite the fact there is no reason to believe a casino is safer than a church or a bar, casinos were never closed.
Cutting off the booze three hours earlier probably hurts the casino business some. But that isn’t the real problem. The casinos are in the hole because there are fewer people with disposable income coming through the doors.
You get that when you run off your citizens to other states. Louisiana’s population declined by 13,000 people from July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, and that’s not because a bunch of folks died of COVID. It’s because people are moving out.
Of course, when the people left in your state are broke without jobs, that plays a part in the problem as well. The total number of people employed in Louisiana sits at 2,091,168 as of the end of November, which is off by 12,000 or so from this time last year when Louisiana was in pretty awful economic shape. There are some 200,000 more people on Medicaid in Louisiana now than there were at the beginning of the year, which is an indication of rotten economic times.
People without money or much of a prospect to get any aren’t going to go to the casino. Or if they do, they go once in a desperate hope of catching a big run at a crap table or a slot machine, and when they plow through their last couple-hundred bucks, that’s it.
Nobody seems to care that the whole state is broke. Not the governor, who despite some pretty convincing evidence that his lockdowns and mask mandates aren’t just illegal but completely counterproductive, won’t stop trying to impose them. And certainly not the state legislative leadership, which won’t lift a finger to counter the governor. Not the legacy media. Not the local pols.
We’re supposed to sit around and wait for Uncle Sugar to deposit a few hundred bucks in our bank account, because economic prosperity is akin to killing grandma now.
And when the casino industry is down the tubes and the politicians don’t care, it’s an awfully good indication of just how far gone things are.