A company that sought but failed to gain voter approval to build a casino in Slidell is set to buy some more time on Thursday to decide what to do with its license for the casino it operated but closed in Bossier City.
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board is meeting in Baton Rouge to decide the next step for P2E, a Richmond, Va.-based investment firm, which wanted to transfer its license for DiamondJacks Casino from Bossier City to Slidell.
Under a resolution approved by the Gaming Control Commission in September4, P2E must reopen DiamondJacks by February 9 – or relinquish its license – since voters in St. Tammany Parish did not approve a referendum in November to allow gambling in the form of a casino in Slidell. The board has the power to force P2E to return the license to the state.
Drew Brees may have gone all out to locate a casino near Slidell, but voters in St. Tammany Parish weren’t — at least those who participated…
“I don’t want them to lose the license. We want to keep that license commercially,” Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns said in an interview Wednesday. The council meets Thursday at the State Capitol.
His resolution, if approved, would push back the reopening date to Feb. 25 and require P2E executives to outline their plans for the Bossier property in detail at a Feb. 17 hearing.
On another gambling issue, Johns said he still doesn’t know when bettors can use a phone or computer to place bets on sporting events. The Louisiana State Police still monitors companies hired by casinos to manage online betting software and processes. State law requires compliance and suitability investigations and testing to make sure the technology works as promised.
“My goal is to have online available before the Super Bowl (February 13). At this time, we don’t have a firm date,” Johns said. “Were very close.”
But the biggest issue facing the Gaming Control Board at its Thursday meeting is what to do about the P2E license for DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City.
The casino closed at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, then permanently in May 2020 just after Governor John Bel Edwards authorized the reopening of casinos as the first ravages of the coronavirus began to recede. The company angered regulators by shutting down state officials without notice. Nearly 400 employees lost their jobs. P2E sold the hotel’s furniture, linens, silverware and other items.
Gaming regulators cleared the transfer of a casino license from Bossier City to Slidell.
Company officials blamed the shutdown on the coronavirus, but DiamondJacks was one of the worst-performing casinos in the state for years under P2E. The company had owned DiamondJacks since 2015, having bought it out of bankruptcy.
The 400-room DiamondJacks Hotel and Casino remains derelict with the recent installation of a fence to keep the homeless out, much to the dismay of local authorities.
“The longer it remains empty, the more it will deteriorate. No community wants to have a degraded property of this size right next to the highway. It’s an eyesore,” said Lisa Johnson, president and CEO of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce.
“We hope there will be investment in the property to improve conditions and marketability,” added Rocky Rockett, president of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation.
If the state takes over the DiamondJacks license, multiple casino companies are likely to bid to take it back, including its own, said Dan Lee, president and CEO of Full House Resorts, which owns casinos in Mississippi and in three other states.
Lee said the gaming control commission would then have the option of awarding the license to the company that makes the best offer in terms of how much it will invest and how many jobs it will create.
“You want to be close to the Texas border,” Lee said. “Houston has 7 million people. The state of Louisiana has 4.5 million.
Johns said: “The ideal situation is for Diamond Jacks, P2E, to reopen the property to Bossier and if they decide to make major capital improvements, we will work with them.”