Louisiana’s gambling scene
Louisiana has a long history of gambling. When the original settlers came to the region from France, among the first facilities they built were gambling parlors. Over the following years, numerous changes were made to the gambling laws. For a long time, online gambling has not just been illegal, it has also been criminalized.
Those caught participating in illegal online gambling faced potential prison time in more extreme cases. Fines were particularly harsh for those caught running illegal online gambling operations. A popular pursuit in Louisiana is horse racing. Casinos in the state can offer table games and slot machines. Residents can also participate in the occasional poker tournament and the state lottery has been running for many years.
It is still illegal to play any form of online poker or even buy lottery tickets online. Since the ending of the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, there have been calls in Louisiana for it to be made legal.
Details of this new bill
The upper house in Louisiana has approved a new 15.5% tax for online fantasy sports betting. Included in this bill is an amendment that allows legal sports betting on baseball, basketball, and football games. There was a heated debate on the issue between two of the House’s Republican lawmakers. Senator Danny Martiny has been pushing for legal sports betting for some time, while Representative Cameron Henry has been using his power as the chairman for the House Appropriations Committee to block the progress of such a bill.
Henry has even left meetings at key times to prevent the Martiny’s proposal from being reconsidered. Martiny will be leaving his position as senator this week as a result of term limits. He has not been happy with Henry’s attempts to derail this bill. Because this is the final bill that Martiny will sponsor, he will not go down without a fight.
New tax rate
Both the Senate and the House approved the new tax rate. However, there are concerns that the sports betting amendment could be taken out of this bill in the House. This would mean that it would have to go to a conference committee to decide which parts of the bill make the final cut.
Fantasy sports has been legal in the state since the November 2018 midterm elections. Of the 64 parishes in the state, 47 voted in favor of allowing fantasy sports betting. The legislature was then tasked with creating the regulatory and tax framework for the sector. It was natural that the support for fantasy sports would see a push for full sports betting in the region. However, groups with strong political influence, particularly in the center and north of the state, oppose gambling expansion.
Martiny will continue to push for legal sports betting. He said: “Level the playing field for our casinos to compete against the Mississippi, Arkansas, and now Alabama casinos and also it will afford us the opportunity to give a significant amount of money dedicated to early childhood education.”
Those in opposition say that the actual sports betting revenues seen in most states have not lived up to the revenue forecasts to date. This will be a battle that will go right down to the wire.