BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Demolition could begin as soon as January 2023 at the property formerly known as Diamond Jacks Casino in Bossier City, clearing the way for construction to begin on a $200 million project to renovate and reinvent the 26-acre property and give Northwest Louisiana’s oldest casino new life.
While the final product might look different in some ways, the company investing in the property was required to submit a plan for everything from the cost of renovating the hotel and construction of a new land-based casino to staffing and security.
The property has sat empty for more than two years since the current owners decided not to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down in early 2020. Most of everything was sold off. An attempt to move the license to a new casino in Slidell failed in December 2021. Foundation Gaming stepped in with an offer to buy the dilapidated property in April 2022. The LGCB approved the sale in December 2021, but the Mississippi-based company needed approval from the state to transfer the license before the sale could be finalized.
That happened last week when the Louisiana Gaming Control Board unanimously approved the transfer of the license to Foundation Gaming, as long as the sale — for about $15 million — goes through. Foundation Gaming, which has experience in turning around distressed properties, plans to open its new property by Dec. 2024. They are seeking permission to start demolition work by the end of January on what would be the first land-based casino in Northwest Louisiana.
“It will be an entirely new property from what’s been there,” LGCB chairman Ronnie Johns said Monday.
The plans include adding 47,000 square feet of new space, with a new 61,000 square-foot casino area. Foundation Gaming plans to create “a single-level land-based gaming experience, targeted to be one of the most inviting in the market,” according to the presentation submitted to the LCGB.
”They will be the very first in the Shreveport-Bossier market, a true land-based casino,” Johns said. “I think the most important thing, is the old legacy riverboat that is there now goes away,” Johns said.
That old legacy riverboats came with low ceilings and poor ventilation. A new, land-based casino will offer more open space with higher ceilings and a modern ventilation system.
Plans include over 1,000 slot machines, more than 50 live and electronic table games, a live entertainment center, and a sports wagering lounge. Plans also call for a new entrance to the casino from the second level of the parking garage, a steakhouse and bar, retail outlets, a spa and fitness facility, and an outdoor complex that includes a bar and lounge area.
Plans for the hotel rehab include 405 rooms with 20 multi-room suites, along with meeting and public spaces. Foundation Gaming expects to replace much of the aging property infrastructure, including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. They also expect to replace most of the roofing system and redo the entire exterior of the hotel towers and pavilion.
While the new name has yet to be determined, Foundation Gaming plans to rebrand the facility “to allow the property to enjoy a fresh start in the market.”
Foundation Gaming was familiar with the property well before it offered to buy it in April 2022.
First opened in 1994 as the Isle of Capris, the first hotel tower with 319 rooms was added in 1999 and a second tower added 252 rooms in 2003. The boat was sold to Legends Gaming and re-branded as DiamondJacks in 2006. The property went into its first bankruptcy in 2008 and a second in 2012. Foundation Gaming was hired as a consultant to help get it out of bankruptcy the following year and took over in 2014 as property manager. It was sold to Peninsula Gaming in 2015 and closed in 2020.
Foundation Gaming, which operates Fitz Casino in Tunica and WaterView Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, offered to buy the property this year after the failed attempt to move the casino license to south Louisiana.
Diamond Jacks employed more than 300 people and brought in more than $10 million in taxes and fees to the state and local governments annually before it closed.
While two years is a long time for one of Louisiana’s 15 gaming licenses to remain unused – and therefore not bringing in revenue for the state – Johns says the approval of Foundation Gaming’s takeover of the property is a best-case scenario.
“This is the quickest way,” Johns said. “A lot of people are asking me how soon can this be completed. Their petition is for it to be completed within 24 months from now. That would be in the fall of 2024. And some people will say, ”Well that’s a long time from now.’ Well, you’re talking about a completely entire reconstruction of the property. Had we not accepted Foundation’s petition and put the license out for bid, you could be looking at an additional year, could be 2025 before that property would be put back in commerce. So this is the quickest way to get the property up and running again and to do it just in a first-class manner, something that Bossier City, Bossier Parish and Shreveport can be proud of.”
And Johns says the return of a sixth casino in Shreveport-Bossier will benefit the market.
“A lot of people are concerned about, is this gonna cannibalize or affect the other casinos in the market? We are convinced through some data analysis that this will help grow the market, it will become a destination point for the Bossier-Shreveport gaming market, and we think that it will bring more people into the market and, of course historically, people come in, into a gaming destination. They like to go to multiple properties. So I think everybody will benefit from this in the long run. We’re excited about it. We feel very good about Foundation, and we feel comfortable that they’re going to be a very good community partner.”
Besides several hundred jobs and a boost in local business, Johns says the re-opening of the casino will generate state and local tax revenue.
“In Louisiana, every casino pays 21.5 percent of their winnings to the state of Louisiana. But on top of that, they pay a local tax to the city of Bossier and to the parish of Bossier.”
How much revenue from local taxes is still to be determined.
“That is something that they have to negotiate separately from the state because the state taxes are set in state law, but they will be negotiating with the City of Bossier and with the Parish of Bossier for local taxes,” Johns said. “Some of that money could be going into the school board, possibly some of it can be going into whatever the way the city of Bossier wants to spend their money but being from the Lake Charles area myself, I see what it does in terms of local taxes down here with our casinos, so it does have a huge impact.”
“We’re excited because that’s not only gonna bring that new casino in, but they will bring other people in to come to that casino,” Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler said. “It’ll probably be better off with other businesses and stuff that like that and open up the East Bank and the Riverfront even more.”