EBR considers allowing 24-hour liquor sales for casinos

Casinos could be the only establishments in East Baton Rouge Parish allowed to sell alcohol after 2 a.m. if the Metro Council approves an ordinance change Wednesday creating a new license for the gambling facilities.

Under the proposed change, sponsored by Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, Baton Rouge casinos could buy an annual license for $5,000 to sell alcohol for 24 hours a day.

The three casinos currently operate around the clock, but are required to end alcohol sales between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. every day, as is the case for bars and package liquor stores, except for Sundays, when the sales are cut off from 2 a.m. until 11 a.m.

Marcelle called it a “common sense” change that would benefit the casinos economically and create jobs.

“Marksville, New Orleans, Lake Charles, all of those places are attempting to attract conferences and they have the ability sell alcohol all night,” she said. “We’re the only city not able to sell alcohol all night, but they’re open all night.”

Under the proposed change, alcohol could only be sold around the clock on the gambling floor and in restaurants and bars that can be accessed exclusively by the gambling floor, Assistant Parish Attorney Joseph Scott said.

For example, restaurants and bars in the hotels not connected to the gambling floor would still be barred from selling alcohol after 2 a.m.

Geno M. Iafrate, executive vice present of Regional Operations for Pinnacle Entertainment, said L’Auberge Casino and Hotel officials support the proposed ordinance change.

“A modification of the current restrictions will enhance the guest experience while leveling the playing field competitively with other casino resort properties in Louisiana and neighboring states,” Iafrate said in an emailed statement.

Mike Donovan, spokesman for the Belle of Baton Rouge, noted that there’s a significant drop in admissions after 2 a.m.

“I think that it will increase our competition with not only the New Orleans market but the Gulf Shore market, and make Baton Rouge a destination,” Donovan said.

Joel Loots, vice president of marketing for Hollywood Casino, said Hollywood officials were “definitely in support” of the ordinance change.

“We serve alcohol as an amenity for the guests, and this would help us enhance that amenity for them,” Loots said.

The Metro Council is expected to vote on the issue at its meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall.

Councilwoman Tara Wicker, whose district encompasses the Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino, said she opposes the ordinance change, calling it a public safety issue.

“There’s no question that when you have a higher concentration of alcohol that it leaves that community more vulnerable,” she said. “People do things when they’re under the influence of alcohol
that they otherwise wouldn’t do.”

Former Metro Councilman Ulysses “Bones” Addison attempted last year to extend weekend alcohol sales for casino bars to 4 a.m., but ultimately withdrew his proposal for lack of support.

Rather than create a license exclusively for casinos, he proposed a license that any bar could purchase at a cost $40,000.

He said the onerous price tag was intended to weed out everyone except casinos.

Advocate staff writer
Faimon Roberts
contributed to this article.