Louisiana Sports Betting Bill Progresses Slowly but Surely

  • Louisiana has 15 riverboat casinos, a casino in New Orleans, and four racetracks
  • Senate Bill 153 would allow these gambling facilities to offer sports betting
  • It has passed a vote from the Senate and now goes to the House of Representatives
  • If the bill is passed, there will still have to be a public vote on the issue for each of the state’s 64 parishes
Louisiana state flag
A sports betting bill has been passed by the Louisiana Senate.

Louisiana’s gambling scene

Louisiana has a long history of gambling. When the first settlers from France came to the region, they built casino-like facilities. Over the years, numerous attempts to make gambling illegal were defeated.

The state has not yet embraced online gambling. It is not only illegal, it is also criminalized. That means that people can be sent to jail if they are caught gambling online.

Usually, those caught using illegal online platforms are fined and prison sentences are imposed on those caught running illegal online gambling operations.

Horse racing is popular in Louisiana and betting is allowed on the races. Casinos in the state offer gaming machines and table games. There are also numerous poker events and a state lottery. Playing poker online or buying lottery tickets online is illegal.

Since the federal ban on sports betting came to an end in May 2018, a lot of people in the state have pushed for legal sports betting because they do not want to fall behind their neighboring states and lose out on potential tax revenues.

Legalizing daily fantasy sports

Louisiana’s has recently legalized daily fantasy sports, an activity that has become very popular across the country. FanDuel and DraftKings are the leaders in the sector. Since the ending of the federal ban, they have become involved in operating sportsbooks.

Each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes in Louisiana vote during the November 2018 midterm elections on whether to allow daily fantasy sports. FanDuel and DraftKings spent over $1m in advertising to support legalization. Forty-seven parishes voted in favor.

Progress of legal sports betting

Senate Bill 153 would allow casinos and racetracks in Louisiana to offer sports betting.

Senator Danny Martiny proposed this bill, which would allow betting on professional and college sports. The state’s 15 riverboats, the casino in New Orleans, and the four racetracks would have their own sportsbooks.

Martiny believes that, with neighboring states having or close to having sports betting, the gambling facilities in Louisiana will suffer if they do not do the same. A lot of residents crossing over state lines to get their sports betting fix, meaning that tax revenues are being drained from Louisiana.

If sports betting becomes legal, most of the tax revenues will fund education programs. Martiny estimates that they could eventually see annual tax revenues in the region of $40m (£31m) and $60m (£46.5m). Of course, many states that have legalized sports betting have seen disappointing results compared to their initial revenue estimates.

Opposition to sports betting

Naturally, some people are opposed to legal sports betting in Louisiana. Karen Peterson, a state senator from New Orleans, recently opened up about her struggles with gambling addiction.

Peterson is pushing for any tax revenues from sports betting to go mainly toward treating gambling addiction. She is not opposed to gambling expansion, but she did vote against this bill. She said: “I hope people don’t have to go through the pain I have with this disease.”

Others in opposition include the Family Forum and the Louisiana Baptists. They believe that levels of gambling addiction will increase sharply if sports betting becomes legal. However, with Governor John Edwards hinting strongly that he would likely sign a sports betting bill into law, the future does not look great for the opposition.

Recent progress

Senate Bill 153 was approved by the Senate on April 30 by a vote of 24-15. The next step is for the bill to go to the House of Representatives. As part of this bill, sportsbooks will be able to offer mobile sports betting, which would be a massive step forward. In New Jersey, for example, more than 80% of sports bets come through mobile sportsbooks.

If the House passes the bill, there will still need to be a public vote on the issue.

It will be similar to the daily fantasy sports vote, with each of the 64 parishes deciding on the issue. Therefore, for sports betting to begin in Louisiana in 2020, the referendum would have to be on the November 2019 ballot.

The current legislative session in Louisiana ends on June 6. If the bill does not pass, it would be another couple of years before sports betting is legal in the state.