Casino Gaming Down In Louisiana

The drop in tourism following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hit Louisiana's state-licensed casinos in October as winnings from gamblers fell 4.6 percent from September.

Louisiana's 14 riverboat casinos won $123.7 million last month, down 5.9 percent from September's winnings of $131.4 million. At the same time, Harrah's New Orleans land casino saw a 5.7 percent boost in its take to $20.3 million from September's $19.2 million in winnings, state police reported Tuesday.

The total take for the state-licensed casinos was $144 million, down 4.6 percent from September's tally of $150.7 million. Following industry trends, the figures for October generally trail those of September. But Harrah's New Orleans was down 3.7 percent from its October 2000 figure.

The riverboats showed a 7.1 percent increase from a year ago, but the Hollywood Casino, which brought in $10.8 million last month, was not open until December 2000. Wade Duty, executive director of the Casino Association of Louisiana, said the decrease in tourism came at a time where all aspects of the economy are seeing a reduction in consumer spending. ``People are just not traveling as much. But I think that will change over time,'' Duty said.

Citing a decreased number of gamblers, three riverboat casinos recently have laid off workers or cut working hours since the terrorist attacks. Harrah's Lake Charles laid off 90 workers and said it would let 85 vacant positions go unfilled. The Treasure Chest in Kenner laid off 80 workers and Harrah's in Shreveport laid off 37 workers.

In addition, the Isle of Capri in Bossier City reduced most of its full-time staff to 32 hours per week and Hollywood, in Shreveport, cut the work schedule of about 30 percent of its 1,800 workers. The biggest loser in October was the Shreveport-Bossier City market, which has five riverboats. Those casinos won $59.9 million in October, down 8.6 percent from $65.5 million in September.

A year ago, with four casinos operating, the market took in $54.5 million. Shreveport-Bossier City is heavily dependent upon tourist gamblers from Texas and other nearby states. In the other casino markets: The pair of two-boat complexes in Lake Charles won $28.7 million in October, down 4.5 percent from $30.1 million in September, but up 6.8 percent from $27 million in October 2000. Lake Charles also attracts many of its gamblers from nearby Texas.

The three riverboats in the New Orleans area, which compete directly with Harrah's New Orleans, saw their winnings decline 3.6 percent, from $22.7 million in September to $21.9 million in October. Those boats were up 4.8 percent from $20.9 million in October 2000.

The two floating casinos in Baton Rouge won $13.17 million in October, up just slightly from $13.12 million in September, but down slightly from $13.23 million in October 2000. Before April 1, the nine riverboat casinos in Lake Charles, New Orleans and Baton Rouge were required to make periodic cruises. Full-time dockside gambling has been allowed since. Shreveport-Bossier City boats always have been dockside. The figures do not include the three Indian reservation casinos in Louisiana, which are not required to publicly report their revenue figures.