Live Casino GM: Shreveport, Bossier gambling changes in 2025
Live Casino GM: Shreveport, Bossier gambling changes in 2025
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There are some things you need to know about new Live! Casino and Hotel Louisiana executive vice president and general manager John Chaszar. He is one new kneecap away from being bionic. He once "retired" from the gaming business and became a substitute teacher. He has worked in just about as many places as Johnny Cash sang about in "I've Been Everywhere." Chaszar has no fear of starting over.

The $271 million plus Bossier City Live! property which is going up amid the bones of the old Diamond Jack's casino is also his first ground-up opening. From now until the ribbon cutting in the first quarter of 2025, things are only going to get more hectic and exciting. "Every day is different, that's the best thing about this business," Chaszar said, smiling, as he sat for a wide-ranging interview with The Shreveport-Bossier City Advocate.

Over the sounds of construction, he told us "This is going to be a fine dance toward the end. Right now, it's sort of calm for us from the operations standpoint, but we're doing an awful lot of planning, we'll be doing that dance, and we might step on some toes, but it's going to be a great opening, it's going to be phenomenal, I can promise you that."

Like what Disney World meant to Orlando

Chaszar believes the changes that Live! will bring to the gaming market will be profound. "I equate this as Disney World coming to Orlando where it just changes everything in the market. We're in the entertainment business, it's part of our culture, our amenities aren't just open on the weekends."

Chaszar said locals and visitors alike will be drawn to the Sport and Social sports bar, the PBR country and western bar with bandstand and mechanical bull, an Asian themed and other branded restaurants, their four-star steakhouse, and a three-meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) restaurant.

Live! wants people to be able to come with their families so the upscale steak house and the more casual three-meal restaurant will have entrances away from the gaming floor to allow 21-and-under visitors to enjoy them.

Anyone who remembers the former casinos at the site - the Isle of Capri and later, Diamond Jack's - should know that once past the 549-room hotel that will now feature floors of suites, everything will be dramatically different.

"Once past the hotel, we've come on land." Chaszar said. "I watched the old boarding ramp get filled in with concrete last week." He said that Live! is adding roughly 30,000 square feet for a single level casino floor with a much more expansive feel.

In addition, he said, the property will be focusing on corporate travelers and conventions. "Anybody can fill a casino hotel on Friday and Saturday, our focus is Sunday through Thursday, too." Several conventions have already been booked, according to Chaszar.

Live! will keep the property looking good, he promised. "I know that some of the casinos have not invested in their product, and we see that in our market to some extent. This group is extremely committed to make sure that this property stays a shiny new penny."

What about Oklahoma casinos and possible Texas gaming?

Luring visitors and players into a new property is one thing, keeping them is another. We ask about the threat of competition from Oklahoma casinos and possible Texas gaming. "So, Oklahoma has been there forever — but people from Texas still come to the Bossier market."

"Texas has been talking over 20 years about legalizing gaming. We know that some significant money from the Las Vegas Sands has just flowed into the DFW market with the sale of Mark Cuban's enterprise to the Adelson (and Dumont) group, that may have some influence in the future," Chaszar speculated.

"We anticipated a worst-case scenario of Texas getting legalized gaming in the next 5 years and we accounted for that. Owners don't invest $300 million just for community service, they need a return on their investment." Chaszar said he personally feels a worst-case scenario for a Texas casino to be approved and built would be 7 to 8 years.

Even so, he said, "We will be the premium product in this market. You still have east Texas that some will still come this way. Will there be a shift in the competitive landscape here? Absolutely. It's just natural."

Online gaming may be the real challenge

Chaszar said by far the biggest unknown is online gaming. "When the country embraced back in the early 90s the passage of casinos in the Midwest, it was done so with a government and people standpoint of creating jobs. I think as a commercial casino business we have done a phenomenal job at that."

"Online gaming doesn't create jobs, it has the opposite effect. As it comes on board, brick and mortar casino revenues either go down or best case remain the same. Those scenarios actually force casino operators to start reducing staff. Online gaming does just the opposite of what the original intention was. We are not advocates of online gaming."

Chaszar will use all the skills gained in his careers that started in hotel management and stints in Fort Worth, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Chicago, Denver, Kansas, Dallas -some of those places, twice — and his casino "life" that added stops in Bay St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Evansville, and now, Bossier City.

His short-term "retirement" near Seattle allowed him to get the last of his two partial knee replacements, hip replacement, and new kneecap, work needed courtesy a lifetime of long-distance running.

Do you sometimes wake up in the morning and wonder what city you are in, we ask? "No," he said with a laugh, "Because when I go outside in the morning and it's 200 degrees, I get reminded real quick."

Chaszar has been through hurricanes, ownership changes, and now, complete rebuilds. "I tried retirement, I didn't like that," he laughed. "I got into it, because every day has been a challenge. Hopefully Live! is my swan song, I couldn't pick a better project. This fulfills everything that's been in my blood since I was 14 years old washing dishes."

Out of lifetime of work stories, his favorite:

"I was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina wiped us out. I was in Orange Beach (Alabama) and got a phone call saying that we needed to get in and get the money. I was the executive director then of non-gaming, and I didn't really pay attention to what they did with the money.

"I found out our cage (where the money is kept) at the time was a plywood room and Katrina had just crushed us. Our property was under 20 feet of water, filled with mud, it stunk so bad. I got a phone call saying we need a generator, we need a Sawzall, extension cords - and we need a U-Haul truck to carry all this money. We showed up, went in, cut our way into the cage, and we get in there and all the money boxes are still in there, all of them were! We start digging them out of the mud and we put all these boxes in the back of the truck, covered with mud.

"Three Florida State Troopers and a Florida State Police helicopter were waiting to escort us to the bank. So we fill the truck — every single box was accounted for from every single slot machine.

"We drove to a local bank, which wasn't our bank, our bank was shut down. This was another bank that had offered to help us for free. We get to Gulfport, and take these boxes into their vault.

"Over the next two weeks we unlock the boxes, they literally put the bills in those bags you wash fine nylon clothing in and put them in washing machines, then put the money in the dryer and then hand ironed the bills, stacked it up and deposited it for us. The IRS has active policies for us to watch for laundering money- we actually truly, legally laundered our money!

"Hancock Whitney Bank did that for us and didn't charge a single penny. That's just how the South is, we take care of each other."

How he managed to get his wife to move (one more time):

"Our kids are grown and one lives in Houston and one in Kansas City. So, when I tell her about Bossier City, I say, 'It's three hours from Nick and eight hours from Chris.' That won her over."