Approval Process Slows Louisiana Slots

Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs hoped to have slot machines clanging away by now, but the arduous approval process has put the estimated time of arrival closer to 2002.

"We spoke perhaps more with our hearts and our desires than knowing what was really at hand," said Ray Tromba, general manager at Louisiana Downs, about his expectation to begin operating slots last year. "I had no idea about the level of background checks, suitability investigations, and regulatory ordinances. Obviously we'd like to be further along, but it is what it is."

"It's just a matter of waiting and time," said Dave Wilson, general manager at Delta Downs. "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Some progress has been made. Tromba said a big hurdle cleared was the approval Dec. 19 of Louisiana Downs building plan.

"At least we know what we can build," he said. "Up to that time we were in limbo in a sense. Can we have 500 to 800 machines, or 1,000 machines? It ultimately dictated to us the level and scope of the project we could build."

The first floor at the Bossier City track will be converted into a casino, much like the one at Woodbine in Canada. It will house between 1,700 and 1,800 slot machines.

Delta Downs near Vinton has already held job fairs and publicized an anticipated need for 1,000 employees to operate its casino, but job offers are on hold until the license is approved.

Before the Louisiana Gaming Control Board issues licenses, the state police conduct thorough background checks on key personnel in the organization.

"We don't ever set a time limit on the background suitability check," said Lana Tramonte, a spokeswoman for the gaming control office. "When the reports are complete the attorney general's office will get to look at them first, then will have a recommendation to the board."

Tramonte couldn't say when the reports would be complete, but she said the board should rule within a month of their submission.

"I'm comfortable because I know progress has been made and I'm ultimately comfortable because I know how successful it's going to be," Tromba said. "When they're ready for us, we'll certainly be ready for them."