It’s been two decades since Harrah’s Shreveport Casino riverboat opened in Louisiana, on April 18, 1994. Today the Shreveport-Bossier City market hosts six casinos. Mike Rich, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs and Horseshoe Bossier City, said, “There was a lot of fear about what kind of corruption it was going to bring, sort of the ills of gambling. But in reality, it’s something that supplies quite a few thousand jobs and it’s ended up being a really great from an economic development standpoint and opportunity for employment in this town.”
Former Shreveport Mayor Bo Williams added, “The consultants said the Shreveport market was only large enough to accommodate one boat. That was proved not to be the case, of course.”
As the market grew, Harrah’s and other early riverboat casinos added high-rise hotels and modern amenities. Operators renovated and upgraded their properties. For example, this summer Horseshoe will open DARE, a Las Vegas-style pool and day club.
Still, WinStar Resort Casino and Choctaw Resort Casino–Native American casinos in southern Oklahoma that attract Dallas-based gamblers–have taken a 17 percent bite out of the Shreveport-Bossier City gaming market, said Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association. The tribal casinos are 45 minutes from Dallas, versus three hours to Shreveport-Bossier City. “It’s really tough to compete with that,” Duty said. WinStar expanded in 2009 and Choctaw in 2010, and “Since those expansions the market has shrank every year basically,” Rich said.
Rich added existing casinos were further cannibalized when Margaritaville opened in Bossier City last year, making it the sixth casino in the market. As a result, Rich said, the market today is relatively flat and will remain so for a while. “We’re past the days where one or two boats turned into four and you saw that explosive growth,” he said.
Duty agreed. “There is no denying what the revenue reports reflect. But, over time, if Margaritaville develops its player base and creates a larger presence for itself, you may see that gap close somewhat,” he said. “I think you’re pretty much living the future right now. No bad news, but no particular bright spots on the horizon.”