IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Rita shuts down major Louisiana casinos

Hurricane Rita shut down major Louisiana casinos around the Lake Charles region.
/ Source: The Associated Press

For the second time in less than a month, a major hurricane shut down Louisiana casinos, taking another revenue bite from state government, which already is facing a major budget shortfall.

Hurricane Rita shuttered all six state-licensed casinos and an American Indian reservation casino around the Lake Charles region, which serves a steady stream of gamblers from Texas. The downtown New Orleans casino and three riverboat casinos in the New Orleans area have been closed since shortly before Katrina hit that region on Aug. 29.

None of the casinos, which closed late last week as Rita approached the Gulf Coast, would predict Monday when they would reopen.

Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. said its riverboat casinos escaped heavy damage after boat crews — which are required by Coast Guard regulations even though the boats no longer sail — took the vessels into the Calcasieu River and dodged barges that had broken loose.

“We moved the riverboats out of the way. They did a fantastic job keeping those boats safe,” said company spokeswoman Jill Haynes.

The Isle of Capri hotel complex escaped major damage, Haynes said. She said the company had no reports of its boats being struck by stray barges, as the state highway department reported Sunday.

The state’s newest riverboat casino, L’Auberge Du Lac, sustained minor damage, said Kim Townsend, a spokeswoman for the gambling resort’s owner, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which has a two-riverboat gambling complex in Lake Charles, was bringing in a team of executives to examine the property, said company spokesman Alberto Lopez. An assessment of damage had not been made.

The Delta Downs race track, which has a slot machine casino at nearby Vinton, was damaged during the storm, but company officials refused to characterize the damage until an inspection was finished.

“We did sustain damage,” said Rob Stillwell, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns Delta Downs. “The good news is no one is hurt and the buildings are still there, as close to the eye of the hurricane as they were.”

Also closed Monday was the Coushatta Casino Resort on the Coushatta tribal reservation at nearby Kinder. A recorded telephone message at the casino said it was closed until further notice.