DiamondJacks Casino in Bossier City, La., has sat closed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. It will be at least another year before gaming resumes at the property.
Foundation Gaming, a regional casino operator based in Mississippi with a track record of refurbishing distressed gaming properties, last month entered into a buy-sell agreement with DiamondJacks owner Peninsula Pacific Entertainment (P2E). The terms will eventually result in Foundation taking control of the Louisiana riverboat after buying out P2E for an undisclosed sum.
Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) revealed yesterday that the transaction is proceeding as planned. LGCB Chair Ronnie Johns added that P2E selling the casino and gaming license — as opposed to forfeiting the permit — will greatly expedite the time it will take to return live gambling.
If Peninsula Pacific would have surrendered the license, Louisiana law would require the state board open up a competitive bidding process. With regulatory probes of the interested companies and background checks on key officials, the process would have likely taken several years.
Johns says Foundation company officials will present an in-depth renovation plan to the board sometime next month.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment unsuccessfully sought to relocate its Louisiana casino license to Slidell just north of New Orleans amid the pandemic. P2E justified that the Bossier City market has become oversaturated.
While the LGCB agreed to sign-off on the move, the transfer required local approval of residents in St. Tammany Parish, home to Slidell. But locals voted against the P2E pitch — a $325 million project called Camellia Bay Resort — during a 2021 December vote.
With St. Tammany remaining a non-gambling parish, and therefore terminating the Camelia Bay scheme, P2E was told it must reopen the DiamondJacks casino or surrender its gaming privileges. Foundation Gaming plans to bring DiamondJacks back to life, as it did with its two casinos in Mississippi — Fitz Tunica Casino & Hotel and WaterView Casino & Hotel in Vicksburg.
“They’re a very reputable company,” Johns said of Foundation Gaming during Wednesday’s LGCB meeting. “They have a history of taking distressed properties and renovating them into much nicer and much more viable properties, particularly in Mississippi.”
With DiamondJacks sitting vacant for more than two years, Foundation reps say the property requires substantial investment before guests can return. The company told the LGCB that it will take a year or longer to renovate the resort’s 560 hotel guestrooms, meeting spaces, and restaurants.
Foundation also needs to purchase most interior equipment after P2E liquidated many of the resort’s furnishings, including everything from commercial kitchen equipment to guestroom lamps and flat-screen televisions.
Foundation also plans to take advantage of the state’s 2018 law that allows riverboat casinos to move inland up to 1,200 feet from their original barges. The new gaming space, Johns said as relayed to him by Foundation officials, will be much more appealing.
The old legacy riverboats had very low ceilings and were smoky,” Johns said. “Going with the land-based property, they have the ability to put in a very high-tech, first-class ventilation system that’s a safer environment for the customer.
“It’s going to be a nicer experience,” Johns concluded.
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