An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the status of DiamonJacks’ request for an extension. The request will be considered at the Louisiana Gaming Control Board’s upcoming meeting on January 20. We apologize for the error.
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The owners of DiamondJack are asking for more time to come up with a detailed plan for reopening the casino and hotel in Bossier City.
The board will meet on January 20 to discuss the request and decide whether to grant the request.
Currently, Los Angeles-based Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) has until February 9 to resume gaming operations at the Bossier City property after voters in St. Tammany Parish rejected a referendum that would have allowed the company to move the license to the site of a proposed $325 million casino and marina in Slidell on the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain.
On Wednesday, Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns confirmed the board will consider giving P2E “a short extension” to give them time to prepare a detailed reopening plan before the full board on February 17.
“In all fairness to DiamondJacks, reopening with the COVID, particularly COVID issues, the lack of labor resources, and also the difficulty in supply availability, we’re going to give them an extension and allow them to appear at the February 17 board meeting,” Johns told KTAL/KMSS.
“I realize you just don’t flip a light switch and reopen a property,” Johns said, and the lack of the workforce poses one of the biggest problems DiamondJacks will have to overcome. “The entire industry statewide is understaffed, there are job openings at practically every casino around the state. “
DiamondJacks has been shut down since May 2020, when it announced it would not reopen after pandemic restrictions eased. In October, the casino laid off 349 employees and held a liquidation sale, unloading everything from commercial kitchen and laundry equipment to flat-screen TVs and stage lights.
P2E has the option to give up the license, one of 15 for riverboats in the state, but Johns said there has been no discussion of that so far. In fact, Johns says P2E applied for their sports betting license in December.
“I took that as a good sign that they have every intention of using the license.”
While the board does not want the riverboat license to remain unused for much longer, Johns wants to give DiamondJacks a chance to come with a plan that will be a success both for them and the community.
“We earnestly want to put that license back into commerce. I think the gaming control board has an obligation to put that license back into commerce, and we’re going to do that but in a way that’s good for the Bossier City community.”
Under a state law signed in 2018, Louisiana riverboat casinos can move out of the water as long as they remain within 1,200 feet of their existing berths and demonstrate economic development. That’s what Johns hopes DiamondJacks will do.
“It’s my hope they will come in and present to the board a plan to build on that property something much more permanent and something much nicer than what they have now. We feel that’s what they need to be able to compete in that gaming market.”
Johns said there has been no commitment from DiamondJacks that they’re going to do that, “but that’s my hope as chairman, that they’re going to present that to the board in February.”
Three other riverboat casinos in the state are already in the process of moving to land. The old Isle of Capri will become the Horseshoe as part of a $225 million project currently underway in Lake Charles. The Hollywood Casino on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge is also undergoing an $80 million renovation project to move to land. Most recently, the gaming control board approved last month a plan for Boyd Gaming to move the Treasure Chest in Kenner to a land-based facility in a $100 million project.
Johns says the industry is more than slot machines and table games, and the ability to move to land has changed the game.
“It’s the future of gaming in Louisiana. The days of the old riverboats are gone. They can build nicer facilities, amenities, restaurants, spas, entertainment venues,” Johns said. “Those are playing a big part in the income stream and the industry, not just in Louisiana. It’s nationwide. It’s family amenities that are bringing people in.”