Investigating Truck Stop Casinos

ST. MARTIN/ST. LANDRY PARISHES, La. (KLFY) – Video poker has been legal in Louisiana since 1991.

You’ll find truck stop casinos with video poker machines along interstates and highways. For some, it’s a way to pass the time, have some fun, and win some cash.

“Just the excitement of it,” said Nona Lyons of Breaux Bridge while she played video poker at Cajun Fire Casino in St. Martin Parish. “Just the excitement of winning and all you have to do press a button. You don’t have to sit there and throw cards. It’s video poker!”

“Play, have fun, go home, come back, do the same thing over and over again,” said Cheryl Collins of Lafayette, who was also trying her luck at Cajun Fire.

In 1996, voters in about half the state’s parishes banned video poker. Now, five out of nine Acadiana parishes allow video poker… St. Landry, St. Martin, Acadia, Jeff Davis and St. Mary.

There are 50 video poker machines inside the Cajun Fire Casino in St. Martin Parish.

“Some come from Lafayette, some come from Breaux Bridge, some come from Henderson, different locations,” explained Bridget Courville, who works security at Cajun Fire Casino.

Video poker can be found in bars and lounges, restaurants, hotels, racetrack and off track betting parlors, and truck stops.

State and local governments get a cut of the money – ranging 22 and-a-half to 32 and-a-half percent.

According to the latest numbers from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board – from July 2015 thru June 2016 – the state collected $185,710,972. Local governments received $40,190,462.

In Acadiana — $1,779,600 went to Acadia Parish.

Jeff Davis Parish received $470,882.

St. Martin Parish received $3,538,645.

St. Mary Parish took in $877,742.

And $1,476,282 went to St. Landry Parish.

“We have in this parish, at last count, 17 businesses that have video poker machines, a-third of those are truck stops,” said St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot.

He said the parish government gets about $400,000 a year from video poker. And with 800 miles of roads in the parish, there’s always work to be done.

“Most of it does go to the road system but the law does allow for us to use it anywhere in the system where it’s needed,” Fontenot said.

The Quarters Casino and Travel Plaza in St. Landry Parish opened in 2002. By state law, they’re only allowed to have 50 video poker machines. They can’t have slot machines and they have to follow lots of state rules and regulations.

Truck stop casinos are regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. The State Police Gaming Enforcement Division enforces the law.

Pat Willis is the Quarters general manager and one of the casino owners.

“They come in basically once or twice a year to look around, to make sure, to inspect our books to make sure we’re keeping all the records correct. We’re required to store some of the information the video poker machines put out,” Willis said.

Willis said the state taxes truck stop casinos at 32 and-a-half percent. He said casino owners have to put the money into a “sweep account” that the state “sweeps” twice a month.

“Once you get used to it, it’s not that bad, it’s not that bad,” Willis said. “But they do expect you to follow them. So you need to be on top of your game so that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.”

You must be 21 or older to gamble at a casino. The law changed this year to where some video poker machines will accept 50 or 100 dollar bills. It used to be just 20 dollar bills.

The maximum payout on video poker remains $1,000.