New Casino proposal includes an entry fee; a real deal breaker

   The Southside Economic Development District is pushing for a River Boat Casino for Ouachita Parish that would be different from all others in the state, gamblers would be required to pay a fee to come aboard the boat, even if they don’t gamble.

   The bill was submitted at the request of the district by Representative Marcus Hunter.

   Two parts of the bill, HB#858, are raising eyebrows. If Ouachita Parish gets an OK to pursue a River Boat it will do so with it’s hands tied behind its back because it will be the only riverboat casino in the state that charges a cover charge to get in, according to Charles Theus, executive director of the SEDD.

   Theus says the idea of charging a fee was not his or the SEDD Board of Commissioners. He said he was not consulted. According to Theus, the imposition of an entry fee would probably be a deal breaker in negotiations with a Casino owner to come to Ouachita Parish.

   He says the Police Jury would not be required to impose a fee and he doubts that they would, but the law as proposed would make it possible.

   At present, most Casinos offer a variety of freebies that range from free drinks, free or highly discounted rooms, and discounted or free foods. The ultimate goal is to lure in as many customers as possible with the offer of as many free things as possible.

   Entry fees are usually considered a turn-off; that’s why they are considered deal breakers.

   The other eyebrow raiser is the fact that in the proposed legislation, many local governments will get a piece of the door fee, even though they have refused to endorse the casino idea.

    The SEDD which is doing most of the footwork to get the measure through the legislature and on the ballot, is getting the small end of the fees.

   The way the Casino idea works is that the casino attracts visitors who sleep in hotels, eat food, buy gas, shop in the mall and spend money in many places. The parish makes money off the increased spending. The SEDD bill will attempt to rake in a little more money even before the Casino picks the pockets of gamblers; they will do it with the fee.

   The fee will be broken down this way:
   –15% to the Ouachita Parish School Board.
   –15% to the Monroe City School Board.
   –12% to the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
   –12% to Louisiana Delta Community College
   –10% to the City of Monroe Police Department
   –10% to the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Department
   –10% to the Town of Richwood
   — 8% to the Southside Economic Development District
   — 4% to the City of Monroe
   — 4% to the Ouachita Police Jury.

    Theus said the SEDD is pushing the Casino to help boost the Southside, but the Southside is set to get one of the smaller slices of the pie while those who are doing nothing to promote the measure are set to gain more.

    However SB#535 by Senator Francis Thompson is threatening to push out the present SEDD Board and replace it with persons who have a banking, economic development or financial management background. With those criteria, there are not many on Monroe’s Southside, including Theus himself who would not qualify. It’s a case where the baby he birthed, won’t bring joy to his house; someone else will get to be daddy.

    It could all be academic however, because with the possibility that the Police Jury could impose an entry fee, boat owners will most likely go to another area that would welcome them without restrictions.

    Then again, that might be the whole idea.