Amid COVID-19 and layoffs, casino industry calls tax break a ‘tool’ to lure traffic

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Amid fears of more layoffs at Louisiana casinos, gaming industry leaders are stressing the need for a proposed tax incentive currently sitting at Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

In their June legislative session, state lawmakers passed a five-year, $83 million tax break for casinos. It would give customers $5 million in free promotional wagers — essentially coupons for playing. The idea is this incentive would bring more people to casinos at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic leaves many people staying home.

Casinos have been feeling the hit. L’Auberge casino locations in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles have hinted at hundreds of layoffs. The Boomtown casino in Jefferson Parish and the Margaritaville Resore in Bossier City have also laid off — or plan to lay off — workers. The DiamondJacks casino in Bossier City has announced plans to close permanently.

“You have decreased customer demand, which means decreased necessity for additional staff,” Louisiana Casino Association executive director Wade Duty said Tuesday.

Duty, a two-decade veteran of gaming industry, countered claims that the tax break would cost the state’s bankroll $11 million next year. He maintains the state would get its return once customers spend more taxable money at casinos and other nearby businesses — a trend he argues would lessen chances of future layoffs.

“This is the number-one way to get them there,” he said. “This isn’t a giveaway. It allows greater utilization of a tool which will drive revenue.”

Administrators at L’Auberge — and its operator, Penn National Gaming — declined BRProud.com’s interview requests, but sent a written statement regarding the potential layoffs.

“These are extremely challenging times both on a personal and a professional level,” Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers wrote. “The steps we have taken to this point, and plan to take going forward, are all aimed at positioning our company and the majority of our team members to be able to weather this storm and come out stronger on the other side.”

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