Louisiana Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate Panel

  • Louisiana traditionally has embraced gambling, except for online wagering
  • Daily fantasy sports became legal in 47 of the state's 64 parishes following a public vote
  • Senate Bill 153 proposes legal sports betting at the state’s various gambling facilities
  • This would help Louisiana stay competitive with neighboring states
Louisiana state flag
A new Louisiana sports betting bill was approved by a Senate panel.

The Gambling Scene in Louisiana

Louisiana has an interesting gambling history. When settlers came from France, among the first things they built were casino type facilities. Through the years, there were many attempts to make gambling illegal but most were defeated.

Online gambling is not only illegal in Louisiana, it is criminalized. Someone caught gambling online could be looking at a significant fine or even a prison sentence.

Horse racing has always been popular in the state and betting on these events is legal. The state also has casinos that can offer the usual table games and slots. There are regular poker events and a state lottery. However, buying lottery tickets and playing poker online are illegal.

As a whole, the state has an easy-going approach to gambling, except for online platforms. Since the federal ban on sports betting was struck down in May 2018, many in the state are calling for legalized sports betting. They want to ensure that they remain competitive with their neighboring states. Several legalization bills have been proposed.

Daily Fantasy Sports Legalization

One of the key issues also up for discussion is allowing daily fantasy sports in the state. This is an area that is growing in popularity. Some of the leaders in this space, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, have entered the sports betting space in other states. 

Each of the 64 Louisiana parishes was given the chance to vote on the issue of legalizing daily fantasy sports within their own jurisdictions. This went to a vote during the November 2018 midterm elections.

DraftKings and FanDuel spent more than $1m on advertising to get people to support this issue. The vote favored legalization in 47 of the 64 parishes.

Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate Panel

A sports betting bill has passed the first step in the Louisiana legislature. If successful, it would allow racetracks and casinos in the state to offer sports betting.

Senate Bill 153, which was proposed by Senator Danny Martiny, would legalize betting on both college and professional sports. The 15 riverboat casinos, the casino in New Orleans, and the four tracks would be allowed to offer sports betting.

The Senate panel voted 3-1 in favor of advancing the bill. With Arkansas and Mississippi both having forms of legal sports gambling, Martiny believes the Louisiana gambling facilities are at a disadvantage.

Many residents are going across state borders to their neighbors and spending money in their gambling facilities instead. This drains tax revenues from the government and gaming revenues from the Louisiana facilities.

The tax revenues from this bill will largely go towards helping early childhood educational programs, with a small portion going towards the treatment of gambling addiction. Martiny did not have a figure in mind as to how much tax revenues the state could earn annually. His guess was between $40m (£31m) and $60m (£46.5m) each year.

He said: “Sports betting is not the solution to all our fiscal problems, but I know if we don’t do it we will lose money. If nothing else it stops some of the bleeding from people going to Mississippi and Arkansas.”

Some Opposition

New Orleans Senator Karen Peterson recently spoke about her struggles with a gambling addiction. She believes that a significant portion of any tax revenues should go towards gambling addiction prevention and treatment programs.

While she does not oppose gambling, she did vote against the bill. She said: “I hope people don’t have to go through the pain I have with this disease.”

Others who oppose such a move include the Louisiana Baptists and the Family Forum. They are concerned that significant gambling expansion will cause gambling addiction to skyrocket in the state.

Governor John Edwards has already said that if the bill successfully reaches his desk, he will seriously consider signing it into law.

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