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Louisiana Gambling Online and State Gaming Laws

Lousiana

Louisiana has a reputation for gambling that goes back well over a century. Gaming has been a key part of the state culture since at least the 1700s, and the industry is now one of the leading sources of income here. From lotteries to riverboats, New Orleans to Shreveport, it is difficult to separate gambling from the popular image of the Bayou State.

Online Expansion Unlikely, But Considered

At the moment, there are no regulated online casino sites in Louisiana. But individuals here can take still play real money slots and other games on popular websites. For many operations, this is viewed as a grey market: a place where they may not be welcomed, but where the lack of laws criminalizing playing such games means that players can freely join gambling sites and place bets without fearing any repercussions.

Surprisingly, the current iGaming laws havn’t stopped some lawmakers from trying to push for regulations on the industry. Even the Gaming Control Board has pointed out the fact that players are still participating at Internet casinos, but enjoy few protections and provide no revenue to the state.

While the board hasn’t taken a position on the issue (saying that only the legislature can decide to regulate the industry or not), lawmakers have at least studied the issue in an official capacity. That’s far more than in many states, suggesting that while they may not be ready to lead the charge, Louisiana might someday be willing to license sites.

Perhaps the biggest reason to believe that this could happen is the overall acceptance of the casino industry here. With so much gambling already taking place, it seems as though Internet gaming could be a next logical step. And with so many casinos in operation, it’s likely that many of them would happily operate websites rather than see their players wager money with overseas companies instead.

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A Long History

To truly understand Louisiana’s relationship with the gaming world, you need to go back nearly 300 years. During the 1700s, there were various periods in which gambling was considered a popular pastime, and others when state and local officials tried their best to stamp it out. By 1753, a government-operated casino had opened in New Orleans. It and other venues flourished through control by the French, Spanish, and finally as a territory of the United States in 1803.

The back and forth relationship didn’t stop there. Once Louisiana became a state, there were several more periods of bans and expansions, though New Orleans itself often survived unscathed even when such activities were prohibited elsewhere.

After the Civil War, gambling took off again in New Orleans. The state also created their first lottery, with the Louisiana Lottery Company becoming popular not just within the state, but also throughout the country. By 1900, the lottery had been abolished, and for the time being, at least, legalized gambling was largely absent.

Modern Industry Begins with Horse Racing

The first modern form of gambling that gained a foothold in Lousiana was betting on horse races, which started in the 1920s at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. While there were still illegal casino operations that survived through this period, racing became the one legal way to place a bet in the state, and remained that way for several decades.

Only in the 1980s did expansion begin here. As other states in the South began to embrace lotteries, Louisianans considered starting one themselves, and by 1991, both voters and the state government had approved the creation of their own drawings. Today, the lottery has gone beyond its local roots, and residents can also play in multistate drawings like Mega Millions and Powerball.

But lawmakers were still concerned about growing gaming industries in neighboring states, such as Mississippi. In 1991, the state authorized the creation of fifteen riverboat casinos, which have since become some of the most iconic facilities in the state. Sailing from cities like Shreveport, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge, the names and locations of some of the riverboats has changed over the years, but the allowable number of 15 has stayed consistent ever since.

Around the same time, video poker was also authorized throughout the state; a loose definition of “truck stops” allowed many businesses to install the games even if they weren’t intended to be the target locations for the initiative. However, it wouldn’t be until 1999 that the first land-based operation was allowed to open. That facility, known as Harrah’s New Orleans, remains the only brick-and-mortar enterprise here, and is considered the state’s “official gaming establishment.”

In the early 1990s, several Native American casinos also opened here. Three tribes – the Chitimachas, the Coushattas, and the Tunica-Biloxis – gained federal recognition, and each negotiated a compact in order to secure their right to offer tribal casinos in Louisiana. Today, four Native American resorts operate in the state.

Racinos have also become a reality. In 1997, the first slot machines were allowed at three tracks, and today, four different tracks offer casino-style gambling. These include the New Orleans Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, and Evangeline Downs.

Industry Plays Key Role After Katrina

In 2005, New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast was battered by Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in modern American history. The storm impacted so many lives in Louisiana that it might seem like almost an afterthought to mention that it also had a dramatic effect on the gaming industry there as well.

Katrina was responsible for massive destruction in New Orleans. Many casinos in the area closed, including Harrah’s which closed for several months in order to receive renovations. Thankfully, the industry has also played a critical role in the recovery from the storm, helping bring in critical revenues to the state in the years since the hurricane hit.

Citations and References

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