Get Ready For Non-stop Casino Action At Rabona India – Construction workers are completing installations at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its official opening, December 7, 2022.
A dealer deals cards during a staff training session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its opening, Dec.
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Jeff Favre, senior vice president and general manager of the Horseshoe casino in Westlake, on the balcony of the suite where he escaped Hurricane Laura in August 2020.
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New employees Carlotta Albro and Tina Williamson during a training session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its opening, December 7, 2022.
Dealer Tory Derouen during a training session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its opening, December 7, 2022.
Slot machines on the floor of the Horseshoe casino in Westlake before the official opening, December 7, 2022.
Team members returning Tory Derouen’s card during a practice session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its official opening, Dec. 7. 2022.
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The hotel tower and entrance to the former Isle of Capri casino, now renamed the Horseshoe, on opening day, December 12, 2022.
The state’s largest casino market, the Lake Charles area, is growing with the return of a third casino, the former Isle of Capri. Destroyed by Hurricane Laura in 2020, the former riverboat is now reopening on land like the Horseshoe, adding more than 700 jobs and further increasing the more than $1 billion tax base the industry contributes to the state budget.
Gambling contributes about 10% of the state’s general fund revenue. And the Lake Charles area, despite having only two active casinos after Laura, continues to play an outstanding role. Last year, the Golden Nugget and L’Auberge together paid $126 million in fees to the state, according to the state Gaming Control Board’s annual report.
The hotel tower and entrance to the former Isle of Capri casino, now renamed the Horseshoe, on opening day, December 12, 2022. Team photo by Alena Maschke
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Before the arrival of Hurricane Laura, the Isle of Capri riverboat off the shores of Lake Charles had just filed plans to become the first riverboat in the state to move ashore, something the Legislature authorized in 2018. Then the storm tossed the boat into the sea Bridge I -10, destroying it beyond repair.
On Monday, the renamed Horseshoe opened, and local business and government leaders hope it will bring more traffic to the area.
«The Lake Charles market has really become a destination point,» said Ronnie Johns, former state senator and current chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
Located just 35 miles from the Texas border, local casinos draw most of their visitors from the Lone Star State, where gambling remains illegal. An estimated 75% of people who gamble at Lake Charles casinos are from outside the area.
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Lucious and Aundria Barnum drove from Houston and faced a line of cars that slid east toward the casino to try their luck on opening day. «We want to get in on the action,» said Aundria Barnum. «I hope we get some money.»
Both said they hope one day their states will also legalize gambling. «Until then, let’s keep driving.»
Slot machines on the floor of the Horseshoe casino in Westlake before the official opening, December 7, 2022. Team photo by Alena Maschke
The reliance on Texas players has raised some concerns in Lake Charles about possible confirmations on the sidelines. «It’s something we monitor very closely,» Johns said. «It will have a huge impact.»
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While he’s confident Texas will legalize some form of gambling one day, Johns doesn’t think that will happen anytime soon. «It’s not the state looking for a source of revenue,» Johns said.
The recent approval of sports betting has allowed the Lake Charles casino market to add another profitable attraction to its portfolio. In 2021, new sports betting opens at the Golden Nugget and L’Auberge. The new Horseshoe will feature a sportsbook operated by Caesars.
Sports betting is too new to be included in the gambling council’s latest annual report, but according to Johns, it has generated $27 million in revenue for the state through October 2022.
A dealer deals cards during a staff training session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its opening, Dec. 7. 2022. Staff photo by Alena Maschke
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State and local governments share these resources. «The gambling sector of the economy is an important aspect of our local income,» said Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam. «The casino here is definitely positive in terms of its economic impact.»
This impact goes beyond the taxes and fees paid by casinos, which fund various state programs such as early childhood education and local capital improvement projects.
«It covers a lot of different industries,» said Dan Groft, director of H.C. Drew Center for Business and Economic Analysis at McNeese State University. «There are benefits and costs, but most people would argue that the benefits far outweigh the costs economically.»
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The adjacent casino and hotel, as well as restaurants, bars and retail stores located on the property, provide thousands of jobs in the Lake Charles area alone.
Tory Derouen is one of more than 700 employees being trained ahead of the Horseshoe’s opening on Monday. Derouen meets his wife, a waitress, at L’Auberge. Working at a local casino pays for the house where the couple and their three children live, a new car and living expenses.
Returning team member Tory Derouen hands out cards during a practice session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its official opening, Dec. 7. 2022. Team photo by Alena Maschke
“It is one of the best jobs in the region. If you don’t work in a factory, you work in a casino,» said Derouen. He likes it. «It’s fun work,» said Derouen. «All you have to do is show up.»
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Setting up a new casino is not an easy task. First, the outbreak slowed down the process of moving operations ashore, and then Laura scrapped the entire site.
Jeff Favre, senior vice president and general manager of the Horseshoe casino in Westlake, on the balcony of the suite where he escaped Hurricane Laura in August 2020. Staff photo by Alena Maschke
But, he added, the hard work paid off. «We are not the same property as before.» In addition to being the first riverboat in the state to move on dry land, the hotel tower is being completely renovated and will eventually bring back 253 much-needed hotel rooms to the area.
A shortage of rooms has pushed nightly rates to record levels. While this is good news for individual hotels like the Golden Nugget and L’Auberge, it poses challenges for local tourism and the hospitality industry.
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«We’re not able to accommodate as many visitors as we did before the storm,» said Kyle Edminston, president and CEO of Visit Lake Charles, the local convention and visitors office.
Any additional hotel rooms help the local tourism industry, Edminston said. «All of these properties will only benefit our entire community by attracting more visitors to our community.»
There are some concerns that reopening the Horseshoe could cannibalize the local gambling market rather than boost it. But Edminston and others are confident it will attract more visitors. «I think there’s definitely more demand than the three that have opened,» he said, referring to L’Auberge, the Golden Nugget and Delta Downs, a racetrack with slot machines around Vinton.
New employees Carlotta Albro and Tina Williamson during a training session at the Horseshoe casino in Westlake ahead of its opening, Dec. 7. 2022. Staff photo by Alena Maschke
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Beam shared the same view. «There are questions about whether this market can allow so many casinos, and everything that’s been added proves it can,» he said. «Even if they take some customers from other casinos, it will be a net increase in the gaming market here.»
Although Texas has legalized, gambling industry experts say Lake Charles casino amenities, from lazy rivers and spas to high-end restaurants and bars, may make it a destination enough for people to make the trip.
«The Lake Charles market needs to adapt,» Johns said, saying moving riverside casinos like the Horseshoe to land is a step in the right direction. «People love to travel,» he said. «It will be a true destination installation.» is a fun house — we all know that — but it’s a business at the end of the day. So while making sure you have fun is a priority, making money is more important.
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