With a reputation as America’s party state, Louisiana shows its proclivity for entertainment in its casinos as well. Despite the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, gambling in Louisiana got back up to a healthy standard by 10 years later – albeit with almost all of the formerly wildly successful riverboat casinos wiped from the state’s gambling landscape figuratively and literally.
As of this writing in 2017, some 18 sports for gambling in Louisiana are still doing business in venutes including traditional casinos and casino resorts, racinos and, yes, even one riverboat casino.
Population: 4.68 million (off. 2015 est.)
Area: 52,271 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 21
Gambling Age (Lottery): 21
Number of Casinos: 18
• At 7.721 miles Louisiana has the third-most coastline among the states.
• In Louisiana, it is illegal to steal an alligator, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison if busted.
• Hurricane Katrina did $81 billion worth of property damage in New Orleans alone.
• The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway runs over water for nearly 24 miles, making it the world's longest bridge.
With the ridiculous amount of traffic running along the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, gambling laws in Louisiana have always been subject to reality; in other words, Louisiana waterways alone probably led the United States in illegal gambling revenue throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. The state was naturally among the very first U.S. states to legalize and regulate riverboat gambling, card playing and pari-mutuel betting at the horse tracks.
But let’s face it: The entire history – never mind gambling history – of Louisian changed radically with the touching down of Katrina in 2005 and the subsequent devastation of New Orleans and well beyond. At that time, some 12 riverboat casinos had been open for business. All but one was destroyed – or at least totaled to the point of no return – in Katrina and simply were never reopened. Laws regarding riverboat gambling in Louisiana had been getting stricter until the natural disaster, as was the case in most states.
All other legal gambling facilities got back up to spec soon after the hurricane, however, and additional taxes were levied on gaming in the short-term to help accrue some extra funds to pay off infrastructural damage in the state.
As stated previously, Katrina all but ended the rieverboat casino gaming niche for Louisiana, and the state is now mostly reduced to approximating that classic feel at places such as the riverboat-themed (!) Treasure Chest Casino or at the docked boat of the Boomtown Casino & Hotel New Orleans. One riverboat gambling outfit remains, however: The Amelia Belle Casino.
Harrah’s New Orleans, which owns unique status as “the official gaming establishment” in government law, is easily the biggest traditional casino in Louisiana, with a huge 115,000 square feet devoted to gaming including about 2,100 slot machines, 90 table games and a poker room.
The seemingly incredibly liberal Louisiana is actually a bit suprising here, as the lottery is only allowed for those 21 years of age or older; the same goes for the casinos. Oddly enough, however, the minimum age allowed for betting at Louisiana’s three horse tracks.
Seriously? Perhaps the most successful gamblers (a.k.a. scammers) in the history of Louisiana are those who never got caught, and now their names are lost to history. But here’s a great eyewitness account from the late 1800s (though sometimes claimed to be written by David Crockett, this is unlikely), including a great way to extricate oneself from scams such as “thimbleing” (today, we’d call it “the shell game”):
“...seated on a chest was a tall lank sea sarpent looking blackleg who had crawled over from Natchez under th hill, and was amusing the passengers with his skill at timbleing; at the same times he was picking up their shillings just about as expeditiously as a hungry bobler would a pint of corn...
“He continued all the time slipping the pea from one thimble to another; my eye was as keen as a lizrd’s, and when he stopped, I cried out, ‘Now; the pea is under the middle thimble.’ He was going to raise it to show that it wasn’t there, when I interfered, and said, ‘Stop, if you please,” and raised it myself, and sure enough the pea was there...
“‘Sure enough you’ve won the bet,’ says he. ‘You’ve a sharp eye, but I don’t care if I give you another chance. Let us go fifty cents this bout; I’m sure you’ll win.’
“‘Then you’re a darned fool to bet, stranger,’ says I; ‘and since that is the case, it would be little better than picking your pocket to bet with you; so I’ll let it alone.’
“‘I don’t’ mind running the risk,’ said he.
“‘But I do,’ says I, ‘and since I always let well enough alone and I have had just about glory enough for one day, let’s all go to the bar and liquor.’
“This called forth a loud laugh at the thimble conjurer’s expense...
Card rooms, betting on horse races and casino gambling are all legal in Louisiana. Casino-style games, as is fairly typical, must be set on Native American land or via state-issued permit. Any racing venue is legally allowed to host casino games as well.
As of 2017, 18 licensed casinos in Louisiana are open. That’s just short of the pre-Katrina peak of 20 but of course the industry has had to rebound after the elimination of most riverboat casinos.
We therefore shouldn’t expect the landscape of gambling in Louisiana to change too much in the near future. One would figure a Native American-run casino would the next new outlet to open, but no real indication has been made that such a shiny new gambling house will be opened before 2021.