Westlake is growing. The city council approvied an ordinance this week to change and enlarge the city’s boundaries. This puts the new land-based casino scheduled to open summer of 2022 inside the city limits.
“The footprint of the new $180 to $200 million dollar Caesars Entertainment facility is half in the city already,” said Westlake Mayor Bob Hardey. “We supply the fire protection, police, water.”
Because the casino was both inside and outside the city limits, it left Jeff Favre, senior vice president and general manager of Isle of Capri (Caesars Entertainment) to satisfy the tax requirements of two different government entities, city and parish.
“We are delighted to become a part of the city of Westlake,” Favre said. “As the city limits run right through Isle Lake Charles, Westlake has been our primary partner in municipal services since our inception. This change will help streamline our governance and tie us more closely to the city so many of our team members call home.”
Hardey said two Lake Charles companies — Port Resources and CRU — own the property. The casino is the tenant. The city of Westlake received a letter providing consent and support of the annexation from those two companies at Farve’s request.
“Farve told the owners of the land, he wanted to be in Westlake,” Hardey said.
City of Westlake Finance Director Jerry Milner said the city has offered tax incentives and established an economic development district on property near the casino’s entrance.
“We will fund casino capital projects with a percentage of the sales and ad valorem tax collected from the casino,” Milner said. “Projects funded will be those legally allowed under the applicable tax proposition. In a nutshell, we’re going to give up a little to get a lot more in return.”
Milner and Hardey noted another goal: to use the synergies from this location to assist in the funding of infrastructure in the new Economic Development District.
“A Riverwalk would entice private investing,” Milner said. “Developers within the Economic Development District will be allowed to collect and retain an additional two percent sales tax which they can use to supplement funding of capital improvements within this district.”
Milner and Hardey said the ultimate goal is to enhance quality of life and produce additional city revenues that can be used to assist in funding city services and capital projects.
In addition to new boundaries and revenue for Westlake, the change signals another move for the city. It joined the small gaming pool in 2017. It will go from one of the smaller cities that receive monies from the Calcasieu Parish Gaming Pool — along with DeQuincy, Iowa, Sulphur and Vinton — to its new status. It will join the parish — with Delta Downs in its jurisdiction — and Lake Charles — with Golden Nugget and L’Auberge in its city limits — as the city with Caesars in its city limits. These three entities receive a larger percentage of revenue before dividing and allocating to small cities, educational institutions and others.
”It makes us a giver,” Hardey said. “None of this will change the Calcasieu Parish Gaming Revenue District Annual Revenue Disbursements allocated for educational institutions.”
Westlake’s population is also growing as young familys move into new houses being built in West Trace neighborhoods positioned adjacent to The National of Louisiana, the city’s golf course and new clubhouse.
All of this is good news for Westlake, a city bounded by water and industry that has climbed out of a hole. City of Westlake, in the last six years, has reduced its debt by 52 percent, with a plan to be debt-free in five years.
Mayor Dudley Dixon served six terms as mayor of Westlake. He negotiated a healthy impact fee when Westlake got its first riverboat, according to Hardey.
“The impact fee under a special contract for the next mayor was not as lucrative,” Hardey said. After eight years, the last mayor was getting $180,000 a year for Westlake.
The small cities allotment will increase with the addition of revenue from the new casino. This amount is calculated according to number of residents. The city does not receive revenue from local industries, though Recreation District 1 does. The last projects, the new Police Station and the Clubhouse are paid for.
“We’ve been inching our way to victory,” Milner said.