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Louisiana Casinos to Reopen May 18 in First Big-Market Comeback

The state will allow its casinos to reopen next Monday, providing an early test of the gambling’s industry ability to come back.

(Bloomberg)—Louisiana will allow casinos to reopen on May 18, making it the first big U.S. market to announce a return to gambling.

The reopening is subject to casinos gaining state-police approval of their plans, Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones said Monday in an email.

Louisiana will provide an early test of the gambling industry’s ability to bounce back from the coronavirus closing. The state ranked fifth, behind Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, with casino revenue of $2.56 billion in 2018, according to the American Gaming Association.

A few tribal casinos, including ones in Oklahoma, Idaho and Washington, have already reopened, as well as properties in small markets such as South Dakota. Caesars Entertainment Corp. said tribal casinos it manages in Arizona and North Carolina are opening on May 15 and May 18, respectively. Arkansas, another small market, is expected to open on May 18.

Caesars said the reopening in Louisiana may not immediately include its Harrah’s property in New Orleans due to the large outbreak that occurred there. Louisiana has 20 state-regulated casinos and three tribal ones.

On an earnings call Monday, Caesars said it is looking at opening three or four of its resorts in Las Vegas, including the high-end Caesars Palace and at least one its lower-priced properties on the other side of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Reopening Plans

Casinos are releasing their plans to ensure the safety and health of guests, promising social distancing on their properties, masks for employees and extensive cleaning of slot machines and other items handled by the workers and the public.

Properties will be operating with only half their slots and table games available, according to James Kilsby, an analyst with the consulting firm Gambling Compliance.

“Casinos might be back in business,” he said. “But business as usual is definitely some months down the road, unfortunately.”

Tom Reeg, chief executive officer of Eldorado Resorts Inc., said on a conference call Monday that the virus may result in permanent changes in the business, such as the use of electronic dealer games that don’t require chips and less direct mail to customers.

“There’s specific pockets of the business where the sector was antiquated going into this,” Reeg said.

Reeg expects his company’s merger with Caesars to close in June, or possibly July, depending on regulatory approvals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at [email protected].

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at [email protected]

Rob Golum

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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