Gaming regulators: Diamond Jacks casino owner must transfer license to new operator or else

By: - February 17, 2022 3:00 pm
Casino

Louisiana’s gambling regulator has given the owner of Diamond Jacks riverboat casino in Bossier City 60 days to work out a deal to sell the site or have its state gaming license revoked.(File photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Louisiana’s gambling regulator has given the owner of Diamond Jacks riverboat casino in Bossier City 60 days to work out a deal to sell the site – or have its state gaming license revoked. The casino has been closed since March 2020, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E) had already been given an extension from the state Gaming Control Board to figure out its future plans after St. Tammany Parish voters rejected a proposal to move the casino license to Slidell. P2E had pitched a $350 million resort development on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, but opposition from law enforcement leaders led to the proposal’s defeat in a December election.

The law that created the referendum required P2E to reopen Diamond Jacks 60 days after the election, but earlier this month the company asked regulators for more time to work on those plans. The extension gave the riverboat casino until Thursday to submit its strategy.

P2E’s lawyer, Peter Connick of Metairie, appeared before the gaming board Thursday and said negotiations were ongoing with Foundation Gaming Group to sell Diamond Jacks, but more time would be needed to finalize a deal. Foundation owns gambling properties in Mississippi: Fitz Casino and Hotel in Tunica and WaterView Casino and Hotel in Vicksburg.

A marketing executive with Foundation Gaming Group did not respond immediately to a message from the Illuminator. 

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Gaming board chairman Ronnie Johns told Connick it was “extremely disturbing” that P2E had not yet determined next steps for the Diamond Jacks property since closing nearly two years ago. He also expressed disappointment that no one from P2E leadership attended Thursday’s meeting.

“This board has bent over backwards to work with Peninsula on … an opportunity to move that license to another part of the state (and) when that failed, to reopen the license in Bossier,” Johns said. “So we stand here today and nothing has been done. I don’t think a blade has been changed at the property up in Bossier, even with all the extensions that we have done.”

The board also had the option of revoking Diamond Jacks’ state gaming license immediately, but a state attorney said it would likely be years before a new licensee could open for business. Lisha Landry with the attorney general’s gaming division said it would take approximately two years for the board to award the license to a new operator, and awardees typically take two to three more years to build out a casino.

Johns said he was reluctant to seize the Diamond Jacks’ license because it would mean the Gaming Control Board would no longer have jurisdiction over the property, leaving Bossier City to deal with any blight issues that P2E fails to address.

“I’ve done a little homework on Foundation Gaming, and they appear to be a very, very solid company,” Johns said.

The gaming board still has the authority to reject P2E’s plans to transfer its license at the end of the 60-day period, according to Johns. He said regulators would not consider another extension once that period ends.

“They’ll just have to surrender the license and have to deal with it at that point,” Johns said.

 

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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