House approves bill that allows gambling on American Queen - Sunday 12th of June 2005

The House approved legislation Wednesday that would allow gambling on New Orleans-based cruise ships that travel to other points in Louisiana.

Representatives sent House Bill 114 by Rep. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, to the Senate in a 61-39 vote.

The bill is tailored for Delta Queen Steamship Co.'s American Queen. The American Queen is the only boat that meets the bill's requirements of overnight berths for at least 400 passengers.

To qualify, the boats also would have to cruise for 48 hours and only allow gambling when cruising.

"Of all the cruise ships that sail out of New Orleans, it's the only one that's domiciled in Louisiana and flies an American flag," Martiny said.

The other vessels are owned by foreign companies, he said.

During a committee debate on the bill, Martiny said the bill was an effort to help Delta Queen hang on to its business in the face of increasing competition for tourist dollars.

Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, tacked on an amendment to divvy up the tax collections. In the formula agreed to by Martiny, local government would get 7.5 percent, the state would get 7.5 percent and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board would get 3.5 percent to do background checks.

Alario characterized the cruise ship as a fifth casino, referring to the House's approval Tuesday of slot machines at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.

The slot machines would be placed in four areas at the airport.

Alario said Martiny's bill would allow for legitimate riverboats in New Orleans.

Martiny said gambling wouldn't be the main attraction on the American Queen.

"The whole idea is to make it so the gambling is an amenity," he said.

The local revenue, he said, would go into a special taxing district with the city of New Orleans getting a third and the parishes where the boats travel getting a third.

The city and the parishes are expected to split about $500,000 a year, Martiny said.

Martiny said the bill was an effort to help Delta Queen hang on to its business in the face of increasing competition for tourist dollars. Company officials, noting the limited gambling area allowed by the bill, said gambling will be an amenity, not a main attraction.

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