Lawmakers in the Senate were set to consider a bill to extend the state contract with Harrah's Casino — but they hit the brakes when a report by the Advocate revealed a real estate company is in talks to buy the property.
“I was not made aware of it and neither were any of my colleagues that sit on the committee,” said Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco).
The bill didn’t hit any roadblocks getting through the House. But, the new information caused Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Gary Smith to postpone consideration of the bill in order to get more information. Smith wants to know what kind of potential agreement there is to sell the casino and why lawmakers weren’t told about it.
“I want to make sure they’re not trying to just hurry up and use the Legislature to run their value up and then turn around and sell a company," said Smith.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) says if that’s the case, the state could be leaving money on the table. He’s asking the Legislature to hit pause on extending Harrah’s contract in light of this new information, especially since the current contract doesn’t expire for another six years.
Kennedy, a former State Treasurer, says the state could potentially make more money by letting other companies bid on the contract. As the bill stands now, Harrah’s contract would be extended for 30 years. And in return, Harrah’s has agreed to invest $350 million in the facility — adding more hotel rooms and restaurants. They’d also continue to pay the state nearly $70-million-a-year for operating rights.
“I’m asking Gov. Edwards and Attorney General Landry — I’m asking them to wade into this thing and make sure this is the best deal for the taxpayers," Kennedy said.
And, Kennedy adds, if it’s really the good deal Harrah’s says it is, "Well then, they shouldn’t mind the Governor and the Attorney General slowing this thing down — we have plenty of time — and taking a look.”