Belle of Baton Rouge’s move inland gains approval from gaming board

The Belle of Baton Rouge Casino (File photo)

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board today approved plans to move the Belle of Baton Rouge’s gambling operations into the casino’s atrium and reopen the Belle’s hotel. 

The $35 million investment, meant to revitalize the state’s lowest-performing casino, will add 200 jobs and support downtown tourism, officials say. Construction is set to begin in spring, with opening about a year later. 

“We’re looking at this as a first phase,” says Terry Downey, CEO of CQ Holding Company, which completed its purchase of the Belle in May. “There is unlimited potential in this property.” 

While Louisiana casinos, other than the land-based Harrah’s facility in New Orleans, historically have been housed in “riverboats,” those boats haven’t been required to cruise since 2001. State lawmakers in 2018 approved legislation allowing casinos to move up to 1,200 feet inland, hoping that not having to worry about maritime safety and maintaining boats that don’t go anywhere would encourage owners to upgrade their facilities and expand their offerings. 

Hollywood Casino, which CQ Holding also recently purchased, is planning a similar move as part of an expansion planned to open next year. 

Company officials described plans for a “boutique” casino that could be expanded if it does well enough. The casino’s landlord, real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties, will provide up to $28 million of the project cost with CQ responsible for $7 million, officials say. 

Visit Baton Rouge officials are excited about the reopening of the Belle’s hotel, notes Ronnie Johns, who chairs the gaming board. Initial plans are to reopen the 90 rooms on the hotel’s top four floors, according to today’s presentation. 

The board also unanimously approved a sports betting license for Hollywood, which has been operating a temporary sportsbook in partnership with DraftKings since March. The temporary license expires Saturday.