A question of interpretation

Jun 17, 2003 6:11 AM

Whoever thought that two racinos in Louisiana would install both slot machines and video poker machines on their casino floors. Certainly, the state’s politicians never thought it would happen.

Now, some lawmakers are lamenting that they had no idea that a little noticed gambling bill passed in 2001 actually established a loophole for both Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs that made it possible for them to have slot machines in addition to the video poker authorized by a law passed in 1997.

The loophole appeared to be simple language to better define a slot machine. However, the language change actually permitted machines that offered multi-games, in effect both slots and video poker.

The Louisiana House reacted by passing a bill that called for an immediate ban on such multi-game machines, putting pressure on both Delta Downs, operated by Boyd Gaming Corp. (BYD) and Louisiana Downs, recently purchased by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET). Both companies complained that they had made substantial investments in these multi-game machines when they were permitted by the existing law.

When the bill reached the Senate, the lawmakers compromised by inserting a sunset provision in the law that will phase out video poker by Dec. 31, 2006. The bill was approved in committee and is expected to be heard by the full Senate sometime this week.