Last year, Caesars Entertainment finally managed to extend the lease for their Harrah’s property in Lousiana for another 30 years.
New Orleans Has Only One Casino, Harrah’s
HB544 passed through the Senate to give rights to Caesars to operate the only land-based casino in New Orleans, Harrah’s, until 2054, after Caesars agreed to give the state tens of millions of dollars more. The bill was later on signed into law by St. Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Interestingly enough, that same John Bel Edwards, during the time of his governor campaign, was funded more than $8 million, from a federal group called the Democratic Governors Association, which on its turn was donated nearly $400,000 from Nevada-based casino companies in the days and weeks leading up to the election, as originally reported by National Public Radio. Caesars Entertainment, around that time, gave to the DGA $100,000.
Casino Contributions Banned
Louisiana prohibit casinos from contributing to state election campaigns, as the state has a history of corruption involving gambling companies and politicians dating back to 2000 when the state governor by that time, Edwin Edwards, was convicted of extortion related to riverboat casino licenses. And that was not the only scandal then.
Though direct contributions to politicians are prohibited, casinos are legally allowed to donate to outside groups such as the Republican Governors Association and the aforementioned DGA, which on their turn are not prohibited to fund state political races. Such money is hard to trace as these federal groups do not disclose who has donated to them until months after an election.
The RGA received $200,000 from casino companies in the period prior to the election and both RGA and DGA spent millions on the 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial campaign, setting a record for the most expensive campaign in the history of the state.
As casinos are a huge business in the state, political votes can influence heavily the industry and the law banning casino contributions was implemented to prevent undue influence or corruption, but its critics point out that by donating to outside groups, casino companies effectively circumvent it and what matters is that at the end of the day casino money go into politics.
Caesars’ Harrah’s in New Orleans, has a history of controversy from its beginning, when in 1993 the speaker of the Louisiana House shut down the voting machines early to ensure the legislation authorizing the only land casino in New Orleans passed.
Coincidence or not, the name of that speaker is Rep. John Alario, the same John Alario, who in 2018, as Senate president expressed concerns and effectively blocked passage, only a year later to completely reverse his position and even spearhead the effort to pass the bill.
Louisiana is one of the states that has already approved the mega-merger deal between Caesars and Eldorado Resorts, an approval needed due to two Eldorado properties and Caesars Harrah’s in New Orleans.