Harrah's — by contract, the only land-based casino in New Orleans — is one step closer to extending its deal with the state of Louisiana.
The current contract is set to end in six years. But a bill brought by Speaker of the House Taylor Barras would give it another 30. In return, Harrah's has agreed to invest $350 million in its facility.
Speaker Barras represents New Iberia, but says this contract impacts more than just New Orleans.
“My interest in it is truly the economic impact it makes for the state and the increased revenue opportunity that we have once this $350 million dollar is complete," he explained to the House Criminal Justice committee Wednesday.
According to Harrah’s, the expansion will generate an additional $13 million in taxes each year for Louisiana.
The casino is already required to make annual payments of at least $60 million. As part of this contract extension, they'll increase that by $7 million. About half will go to the city and another half to the state to help fund K-12 education.
Sitting next to Barras was Speaker Pro Temp Walt Leger, of New Orleans. The two leaders, despite recent disagreement, found common ground on this bill.
"This may very well be one of the most important economic development bills you'll have the chance to vote on," urged Leger.
The original contract limited the number of hotel rooms and restaurants Harrah's could operate in an effort to drive guests to local businesses. Under Barras' bill, those restrictions are lifted. That $350 million investment would pay for a second hotel and more restaurants.
"This bill does not allow for an additional machine or an additional table or anything as it relates to gaming space on the floor," he explained.
The bill passed the committee without objection and is headed to the house floor.