By Todd Shriber
Last week, the Louisiana State Senate voted 29-8 to advance sports betting legislation proposed by Sen. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), potentially setting the stage for the measure to be considered on a parish-by-parish basis in November.
Henry’s Senate Bill 130 allows for a sports betting question to be put to Pelican State voters on the November ballot, but unlike in other states that used voter approval to authorize sports wagering, such as Colorado, the activity won’t necessarily be permitted on a statewide basis in Louisiana. For example, voters in one parish could approve sports wagering while those in another could deny it. The state has 64 parishes.
If a majority of qualified electors in the parish voting on the proposition vote for the proposition, then sports wagering activities and operations shall be permitted in such parish only after state laws providing for the licensing, regulation, and taxation of such activity and operations are enacted and become effective,” according to Henry’s bill.
The proposal now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. Where sports betting will be allowed, how it will be taxed and what sports will be eligible are matters to be considered in a future legislative session.
Lots of Possibilities
Louisiana has more than 50 gaming properties, including commercial and tribal casinos and racetracks. Henry’s bill would allow for any of those operators to apply for licenses.
Boyd Gaming, Caesars Entertainment, Eldorado Resorts and Penn National Gaming are among the Pelican State operators that are already have major sports betting footprints in other states. Those companies run the bulk of the state’s commercial gaming venues.
SB 130 allows for wagering on college sports, meaning Pelican State bettors, many of which are devoted LSU fans, could bet on the defending national champions in football as well as rivals from the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
However, online betting would be limited to casinos, a policy that’s in place in neighboring Mississippi.
Not Much Opposition
There’s some opposition to sports betting legislation in Louisiana from conservative groups asserting the activity is detrimental to families and could stoke increased addiction, but experts don’t view that dissent as vocal enough to derail the legalization effort.
There is some precedent for passing sports gambling-related measures in Louisiana. For example, in 2018, voters in 47 parishes approved daily fantasy sports (DFS), but that effort died because legislators couldn’t agree on how to tax it.
This year, sports betting could find a receptive audience among Louisiana voters because the state lost an estimated $100 million in revenue while its casinos were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. By turnover, the Pelican State is the fifth-largest gambling market in the US trailing only Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
As of April 30, there are 16 states with active sports wagering legislation with Louisiana shaping up as one of the most likely to enter the “approved and legal” column before the end of 2020.