‘Business Report’ Publisher: What’s the rush on Harrah’s Casino bill?

    Two Cents: Why has Harrah’s hired 17 lobbyists to conduct a siege on the Louisiana Legislature in an effort to pass House Bill 553, which if approved grants the land-based casino a 30-year extension, plus and another 30-year option? What’s the rush given the current exclusive agreement doesn’t expire for six more years?

    Not only does this raise questions, but also suspicions. Particularly when every passing day seemingly brings another revelation. First came information that a Las Vegas-based real estate investment trust has an option to buy Harrah’s New Orleans. Now we learn that the bill calls for future renewals to be made by a committee, rather than the full Legislature.

    Many, quite rightly, are asking if the state and taxpayers would be wise to slow down this legislative rush. In fact, wouldn’t it be better to offer the license renewal for public bid? Remember: Legislators are supposed to be looking out for the best interests of the state and the public—not Harrah’s officials.

    Of course, Harrah’s is now trying to sweeten the pot by offering a few million dollars here and a few million more there, though the casino wants that money returned on the back end. They are also touting jobs from building a new hotel, which would compete with existing New Orleans hotels.

    We have six more years on the contract, so the wise move is to slow this legislative train, get all the facts and then consider the best option for the taxpayers of Louisiana. With 17 lobbyists working overtime to ram this bill through the Legislature and get it to the governor’s desk, it seems the odds—as always—are in the “House’s favor.” Let’s hope a majority in the Senate Judiciary B committee or the full Senate have the wisdom, integrity and courage to defer any decision for a year, ensuring the people of Louisiana are the real winner.

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