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Zona de Azar USA – Louisiana: Official Key in Gambling Expansion Steps Down

USA.- May 15, 2024 Louisiana’s top gambling regulator Ronnie Johns, who ushered in the state’s largest gaming expansion in three decades, is resigning next month to spend more time with his family.

Johns, a Republican who oversaw the addition of sports wagering to the Louisiana gambling scene, said new GOP Gov. Jeff Landry didn’t ask him to step down.

Landry is expect to appoint a new chair of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board soon.

“I’m about to be 75 years old, and Michelle and I have things we want to do, and this is a full-time job,” Johns said in an interview with USA Today Network. “It’s time.”

Johns, who lives in Lafayette, will retire after 37 years of elective and appointed public service that included a stint as the Louisiana Lottery chairman, 12 years in the state House and 10 years in the state Senate.

Former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards appointed Johns to lead the Louisiana Gaming Control Board in 2021 as the state was poised to add sports wagering to its gambling options.

Sports wagering now contributes nearly $100 million annually in revenue supporting the state budget.

“We did it the right way and in a manner that generated confidence in the future of sports betting for both players, the industry and lawmakers,” Johns said.

Johns also has courted $1 billion or more in new investment from casino companies who have upgraded or transformed their properties, from the complete rebuild of Caesars Horsehoe Casino in Lake Charles after it was destroyed by Hurricane Laura to the Queen and Belle in Baton Rouge and the Louisiana Live! Casino in Bossier.

Those investments escalated with the recent option for Louisiana’s riverboat casinos to build landside properties.

Johns is bullish on the Shreveport-Bossier market and believes The Cordish Companies’ nearly $300 million investment into Louisiana Live! will help reverse a two-decade decline because of increased competition from Oklahoma.

Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, left, and Louisiana Gaming Commission Chairman Ronnie Johns attend the grand opening of the Horseshoe Casino in Westlake, La., on Dec. 12, 2022.
“I honestly think this development will grow the entire Shreveport-Bossier market,” Johns said. “That’s been proven in the Lake Charles market. When the new Horseshoe opened there, it expanded the market rather than cannibalized it.”

Jon Cordish has promised his family’s complete renovation of the former Diamond Jacks Casino in Bossier City will transform the former property into a destination gambling, event and entertainment resort that will rival the top destinations in the country.

“It’s going to have a quality and energy that when you walk into this property, you’ll feel like you’re in a premier casino and resort in the top gaming markets, including Las Vegas,” said Cordish, a principal with The Cordish Companies, in a previous interview with USA Today Network.

Louisiana Live! will be the first land-based casino in Shreveport-Bossier.

Johns said his resignation is effective June 30.

“I will leave the board knowing that I did my work as regulator with the integrity that it calls for with fairness to the industry, but with absolute compliance of our strict gaming laws and rules that we must adhere to,” Johns said. “There comes a time in everyone’s life when they should step back and make their family the No. 1 priority. I have arrived at that point.”

Edited by: @MaiaDigital


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