The Baton Rouge, Louisiana casino landscape is changing. CQ Holding Company announced it is planning to renovate, rebrand and reopen its newly acquired properties: former Caesars Entertainment-owned venues Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge.
Belle of Baton Rouge’s new owners intend to go before the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and ask for permission to move the venue onto land and open a “boutique-type casino.” The petition would be presented to the Board in June and, provided it gets approval next month, the Belle could open on land in 11 to 15 months.
The plan would involve putting 350 slot machines and 12 to 15 table games in the property’s Atrium, according to Terry Downey, president and CEO of CQ Holding Company.
The first phase of the move would also imply the opening of a coffee shop, an oyster bar, a café, a sports bar and a sportsbook. While the Belle is moving onto land, CQ Holding would start to renovate the casino’s hotel, which has been closed since 2020, with an initial plan that will affect 160 rooms.
The Illinois-based business, which operates four casinos in the US, bought the Belle from Caesars Entertainment in a purchase that was finalized last week.
“We think we’ve got a good handle on the Baton Rouge market. We’ve got a really solid plan that we think is the right thing to do based on where the city is coming out of COVID”, Downey stated, according to The Advocate. “Everything old will become new. We’re going through the branding process.’
However, the move and the renovation processes might cost “a touch more” than the original plans for moving Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge. At the time of the announcement in August 2020, the relocation of that property had a price tag of $21 million to $25 million.
Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge's groundbreaking last August
CQ Holdings acquired Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge in December for $28.2 million. The company’s plans for it involve a rebranding process, which is expected to be completed in late spring 2023, the same time the downtown casino opens a $70 million landside expansion.
This expansion has taken longer than expected due to construction issues. When ground was broken on the project in August, it was set for completion in the second half of 2022. “It took the river a while to drop down”, Downey stated, pointing out to The Advocate the casino’s proximity to the levee.
Hollywood is adding about 33,000 square feet to its atrium by turning the valet parking area into indoor space, and the riverboat’s 859 slot machines and 12 table games will be moved into land. After the expansion is complete, CQ will look at adding a hotel to Hollywood Casino.
The Legislature passed a law in 2018 that allows casinos to move off their current riverboats or barges onto land. The thinking was this would spur investment by getting operators to add hotels, restaurants, spas, pools and other attractions.
Being the first casino to open in Baton Rouge, CQ’s Belle is located on an aging riverboat which, analysts have noted, has some inconveniently placed features such as its parking garage in relation to the hotel or to the gaming floor.
It is also the property to bring in the least amount of revenue compared to any of the 13 riverboats in the state. In March, the Belle brought in less than $1.5 million, in contrast with Hollywood, which saw $5.3 million and L’Auberge, which won $19 million.
CQ also owns the DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois, and Casino Queen Marquette in Marquette, Iowa. With Hollywood and the Belle both moving onto land, CQ has a chance to shift some market share as it is already bullish on the Baton Rouge casino market.
“We’re pretty high on what the market can do. With the Belle doing this phased growth, we can control our exposure,” Downey further told the cited source. “We don’t have to disturb the market, we can just grow.”