Caesars Turns Down License Deal for Harrah’s New Orleans, Gov. Commissions Study
By Bob Garcia
A deal that would have renewed Caesars’ operating license for Harrah’s New Orleans Casino fell through and the end of the legislative session in Louisiana. To understand why the bill failed, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards commissioned rush $32,000 study.
Caesars attempt to pass legislation in Louisiana that benefits its Harrah’s casino backfired during the last legislative session. Instead of accepting the bill sought by Caesars, the state Senate added a $40 million upfront fee, plus another $40 million fee should Caesar’s real estate partner, Vici Properties, moves to acquire the casino.
Gambling win at the New Orleans casino property has fallen from its peak of $418 million in 2008 down to $281 million last year, leading lawmakers to push for reinvestment from Caesars. The initial proposal, HB553, passed quickly through the House because it called for Caesars to invest $350 million to renovate Harrah’s along with the creation of 500 jobs.
In exchange, Caesars would get to keep their monopoly on the New Orleans’ land-based casinos for another 30 years through a license extension. Caesar’s current license deal runs through 2024 with no real urgency to renew. When the bill arrived in the Senate, critics viewed it as a sweetheart deal that favored Caesars at the expense of taxpayers.
When the Senate’s additions to the deal were rejected by Caesars, the bill died with the end of the legislative session. Thinking he could resurrect the bill during a special session, Edwards commissioned the costly, rushed study. In the end, Edwards did not include the bill among his recommendations for a special session.