L’Auberge Casino will begin construction Monday on Riverbend Terrace, a new outdoor smoking area that will have space for 100 slot machines.
The 4,200-square-foot addition will cost about $3.6 million to build and will be located off the existing exterior wall of the casino overlooking the Mississippi River. In keeping with the new state law that bans smoking in bars and casinos, the terrace will be covered but will be completely open on the river side.
“It will have a separate entrance designed as a vestibule, which will basically trap the smoke in it and prevent it from entering the main casino floor,” says L’Auberge General Manager Kim Ginn. “It’s very nice. We’re excited about it.”
Since the smoking ban went into effect in June, the market’s three riverboat casinos have seen steady revenue declines. Even L’Auberge, which typically takes in more than its two competitors combined, saw revenue fall 11.7% to $11.7 million in October, compared to the same month in 2017.
Most of the loss has come from slot machines as opposed to table games, says Ginn, who cannot say for sure why.
When the smoking ban went into effect, Hollywood Casino, an old-style paddlewheel, devoted a covered area on one of its upper decks to smoking. But the area is only partially protected from the weather and only has about 12 slot machines.
By comparison, the smoking area at L’Auberge will be bigger and more shielded from the elements.
The decision to develop the Riverbend Terrace came about in just the two months since Penn National Gaming acquired L’Auberge in an acquisition of the casino’s parent company. Ginn says it was Penn’s idea to develop the smoking terrace.
By comparison, the new owners of the Belle of Baton Rouge, consistently the least successful of the three local riverboat casinos, said recently they will not be upgrading or investing in the local property, despite another new state law that allows riverboat casinos to move on land if they meet certain investment thresholds.