A relative newcomer to the Louisiana casino market — CQ Holding Company — completed its acquisition of the Belle of Baton Rouge earlier this month. The purchase gives the Illinois-based gaming operator control of both of the state capital’s two downtown riverboats.
CQ Holding last year completed its acquisition of Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge through a $28.2 million transaction. Financial terms of CQ’s takeover of the Belle from Caesars Entertainment and real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties were not disclosed.
CQ, which additionally owns and operates DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Il., and Casino Queen Marquette in Ia., is moving both of its Baton Rouge casinos ashore. Louisiana lawmakers in 2018 passed legislation allowing riverboats to move inland, so long as their land-based gaming floors remain 1,200 feet — or about a quarter of a mile — from their designated barges.
Not the Belle of the Ball
In terms of gross gaming revenue (GGR), the Belle of Baton Rouge certainly hasn’t lived up to its name in recent years. In the Baton Rouge gaming market, which consists of three riverboats — L’Auberge being the other player — CQ’s newest gaming property has consistently commanded the smallest share of the three venues.
For example, the Belle of Baton Rouge’s GGR totaled just $1.45 million in March. Hollywood’s win was $5.33 million, and L’Auberge continued its market dominance with $18.89 million.
CQ Holding Company President and CEO Terry Downey believes he has a solution to turn around Belle’s standing. Downey told The Advocate this week that the company plans to move the Belle inland, pending approval from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
The project would be expected to cost north of $25 million, but would include major facility improvements to allow the Belle to better compete. The proposal includes building a boutique gaming space inside the property’s Atrium featuring 350 slot machines and a dozen table games, a new coffee shop, oyster bar and café, plus a retail sportsbook lounge.
The expansion, Downey explained, would take about 11 to 15 months to complete after state approval.
Everything old will become new,” Downey said.
Everything closed will also become open, the CEO added. The Belle of Baton Rouge’s 288-room hotel has sat closed since early 2020 because of the pandemic. Downey explained that the moving of the Belle inland will also include a renovation of the hotel’s guestrooms.
Hollywood Land Ahoy
CQ provided an update on its Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge overhaul. The $70 million investment will result in an entirely new casino space.
Downey said that the Hollywood undertaking will be completed in late spring 2023. The opening of the brick-and-mortar facility will coincide with CQ rebranding the casino from Hollywood, which remains under Penn National Gaming and Gaming and Leisure Properties’ ownership.
When the new Hollywood Baton Rouge opens next year, it will become known as Casino Rouge. Along with a new, 100,000-square-foot casino, Casino Rouge will feature a 250-seat “Big Chicken” restaurant from NBA Basketball Hall of Fame member Shaquille O’Neal. The LSU grad’s chicken chain has locations in Las Vegas, Glendale, Ca., and Rochester, NY.
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