Truckstop Casinos: Track Video Poker a Bad Deal

by Hector San Miguel

A group of truckstop casinos near Vinton, La., want the state Gaming Control Board to determine if 100 video poker machines at the Delta Downs slot-machine parlor are legal.

The racetrack contends the video poker machines in question classify as slot machines because they have a drop pan for winnings instead of a mechanism to issue vouchers for payment. The issue has led the owners of the truckstop casinos to file a petition with the Gaming Control Board asking for its help.

The group plans to air its case at the board's June meeting. Rodney Burch, a Vinton businessman, is representing the truckstop casinos. He was the former owner of the Lucky Peacock Casino at the Toomey-Starks exit off Interstate 10 west of Vinton.

"It's knocking our business in the head," Burch said. "We are Louisiana people. We let them come in and now they are trying to run us out of business."

Under state law, truckstops can have video poker casinos with up to 50 machines. There are seven truckstops in the Vinton area close to Delta Downs. Rob Stillwell, a spokesman for Boyd Gaming, which owns Delta Downs, said the track has about 100 video poker machines, but the slot machines were approved by the Gaming Control Board.

"These are no different than the ones the riverboats have," he said.

Lake Charles has four riverboat casinos with video poker machines.

In a "protest" letter to Hillary Crain, chairman of the Gaming Control Board, the truckstop casino owners wrote, "The video poker business in our area is down 30% or more partly due to the video poker being played at the track. Our concern is that the track may increase the number of video poker games and completely destroy our local video poker business. As other Louisiana racetracks get slots this would affect the whole state."

The letter also states that Calcasieu Parish voters "passed by a small margin to allow slot machines at Delta Downs. It was specifically stated, during the campaign, that they could have only slot machines. The racetrack could have video poker or slot machines but not both. They selected to have slot machines."

The truckstop casinos have filed a petition for a declaratory judgment with the board. It quotes the state's Pari-mutuel Live Racing Facility Economic Redevelopment and Gaming Control Act. "The operation of video draw poker shall be prohibited and may not be licensed to operate in any eligible facility in which slot-machine gaming occurs," the petition reads.

The truckstop casinos seeking the ruling are the Lucky Peacock Casino, Longhorn Casino, Nevada Magic Casino, Lucky Delta Casino, Texas Pelican Casino, Bayou Gold Casino, and Starks Dollar Casino.

Burch said the Louisiana Amusement and Music Operators Association of Baton Rouge is assisting the truckstop casinos in its efforts to get the video poker machines removed from Delta Downs. Burch first heard about the video poker machines at Delta Downs in April.

Burch said the video poker machines at Delta Downs are also offering a maximum $1,000 jackpot for a royal flush, while the truckstop video poker machines are limited by law to offer only $500 for a similar hand.

"It looks like the boys from Vegas are trying to run the others out of business," Burch said. "What is going to happen when Louisiana Downs gets slots? This is going to affect the truckstop casinos there. This needs to be stopped now before it gets around statewide."