NOLA HARRAH'S CASINO DEAL: Louisiana lawmakers only have until this Friday to come to some agreement over the controversial Harrah's New Orleans-landbased casino deal. At issue is whether or not to extend a state contract with the casino for 30 years and granting it exclusivity as the only land-based casino in the city if the company agrees to invest $350 million in non-gaming improvements in its New Orleans property. But some City Council members and state government officials have “serious reservations” about a measure that would extend the casino company’s state license six years before it expires in 2024. During Monday’s hearing New Orleans Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D) told the Senate Judiciary committee that while the "optics of the deal" could be better, the conversation should keep on moving.
"Turning our back on an $350 million non-gaming economic investment in my city is not an option," she said.
But some feel lawmakers haven't done enough due-diligence and in the absence of hard information, are mostly speculating about the potential deal's outcomes. New Orleans developer Joe Jaeger, told lawmakers they need to know how much the casino lease is really worth before they accept Harrah’s offer. Jaeger explained and you don’t have the proper information or the proper analysis to make a decision on whether it's fair or not."
Lawmakers opposed to the bill say they want more time to look more closely at the deal , and with six years left on the current contract, some wonder what’s the rush? But Dan Real, General Manager of Harrah’s New Orleans, said that would be a gamble. "There's no guarantee the money will be there next year, that's what the rush is. And if this city and the state doesn't want the $300 million investment, I know 47 other markets that do," he warned.
The Casino bill previously sailed through the House, but it slowed in the Senate when news broke about Harrah's option to sell the casino once the contract was extended. Harrah's lobbyists have been touting the deal as an economic boom for the city as it represents more jobs once the $350 million investment in the property begins.