Louisiana Lawmakers Continue to Assess Sports Betting Framework Bills

  • An amended HB628 passed 16-0 in the House Committee on Ways and Means on Wednesday
  • The proposal seeks a 10% tax on retail net gaming proceeds and 18% for online operators
  • SB195 and SB202 are somewhat similar bills, both awaiting a Judiciary B hearing
  • The current session ends June 10; sportsbooks hope to open before the new NFL season
Two people discussing legal matters
Lawmakers in Louisiana are currently considering three main proposals regarding the regulatory framework for legal sports betting. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Making progress

Three different proposals are currently under consideration in the Louisiana legislature regarding the framework for legal sports betting. In November 2020, 55 of the 64 Louisiana parishes voted in favor of legalizing sports wagering; lawmakers now working on creating the regulations for the sector.

Representative Todd Stefanski substituted House Bill 628 on Thursday for House Bill 697, with the lawmaker’s House Bill 688 already having outlined the specifics of the latest proposed sports betting-related fees and taxes.

calls for as many as 20 retail sportsbooks

An amended HB628 (now HB697) had made some progress on Wednesday after a vote in the House Committee on Ways and Means was 16-0 in favor of passage. This particular proposal calls for as many as 20 retail sportsbooks, with each being able to partner with two online sports betting operators. The state lottery could also get an online license and every lottery and liquor retailer could host sports betting kiosks.

The amended bill proposed a 10% tax on retail sportsbook net gaming proceeds and 18% for online operators. Representative Stefanski explained that the higher tax rate for online betting was to encourage more support for retail operations. The Louisiana Lottery would be in charge of regulating the sector. A $250,000 application fee would be in place, with $500,000 then payable for those that get a five-year license. HB697 is now awaiting House floor action.

Two bills in the Senate

In addition to the apparent frontrunner that is Representative Todd Stefanski’s proposal, a couple of other bills are also under consideration. Senate Bill 195 and Senate Bill 202 are similar and haven’t made any progress since April 12. They are both awaiting a Senate Committee on Judiciary B hearing. Both of these bills propose the Louisiana Gaming Control Board as the industry’s regulator. In-person registration for online sports betting accounts would be a requirement. Bettors would also only be able to add funds to a sportsbook account through cashless methods.

Senator Cameron Henry, who proposed the original legislation seeking a vote in each parish about legalizing sports betting, is sponsoring SB195. One key area in which this bill differs from the others is that it would allow each of the 20 retail sportsbooks to have three mobile skins each. It would not give an online sports betting license to the state lottery or allow lottery retailers to host betting kiosks.

The retail sportsbooks would be available to the 15 licensed riverboat casinos, the four horse racing tracks, and the sole land-based casino in the state, Harrah’s New Orleans. Any licenses that are leftover would be available to fantasy sports operators and establishments that hold a license to offer video poker.

What is the roadmap to sportsbooks opening?

Naturally, the issue of legalizing sports betting requires lots of different considerations. In Louisiana’s case, each of the 55 parishes that will have legal sports betting will likely have their own opinions on what a legal market should look like. Speaking on Wednesday during the House Committee on Ways and Means meeting, Representative Stefanski said: “I promise I will not move this on to the floor until I have an opportunity for everyone to get their input in.”

The current legislative session will come to an end on June 10. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will have to sign the chosen legislation into law and it could come into effect as soon as July 1. This would mean that operators could be up and running in time for the 2021 NFL season.

The Louisiana Wins campaign pushed for legal sports betting in the state and estimated last fall that annual revenue for sports betting operators in an online market could be between $237m and $332m. Louisiana could benefit from the lack of legal sports betting in neighboring states. Texas and Arkansas have not legalized the activity as of yet, while Mississippi only allows mobile betting when bettors are on-site at a retail sportsbook.