Louisiana Betting Bills Near Final Passage, New Jersey Lawmakers OK Casino COVID Relief

  • Three Louisiana betting bills require approval before the end of the legislative session next week
  • Setting the market’s framework, SB 247 passed the House Thursday but will return to the Senate
  • New Jersey lawmakers have approved a bill providing COVID-19 relief for Atlantic City casinos
  • They also passed a constitutional amendment for betting on certain college sports games
Louisiana State Capitol building
Louisiana lawmakers have had their say on sports betting legislation in the state capitol building (pictured above) this week, while New Jersey officials have approved COVID-19 relief for Atlantic City casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A week of bill approvals

Over the past few days, legislators in the states of Louisiana and New Jersey have had their say on new gambling legislation.

With just one week left in the legislative session in Louisiana, lawmakers are mulling three separate bills for legal sports betting. Together, they establish a wagering framework, and the legislation is making swift progress through the state’s chambers.

the House passed SB 237 with a vote of 78-15

The Senate signed off on appropriations legislation SB 142 on Wednesday, while a separate tax bill HB 697 now just needs the signature of Governor John Bel Edwards to become law. Most recently, the House passed SB 237 on Thursday with a vote of 78-15. It establishes the market’s protocols and oversight.

In New Jersey, legislators have passed legislation which provides financial relief for Atlantic City casinos from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill heads to Governor Phil Murphy’s desk after passing the Senate on Thursday.

On the same day, the Assembly passed gambling legislation which paves the way for a constitutional amendment on certain prohibited collegiate sports betting.

Almost at the finish line

Louisiana has been on a journey towards legal sports betting since November last year, when residents in 55 of the state’s 64 parishes voted to approve it. Before bettors are able to place their first wagers, however, SB 142, HB 697, and SB 237 need the approval of legislators.

Those bills are now inching closer to the finishing line, but protocols and oversight bill SB 247 has taken a slight backstep. It received House approval on Thursday night but must now return to the upper chamber after Rep. John Stefanski made some last-minute amendments. The Senate will need to approve the additional language before it goes to the governor.

Sponsored by Senate President Page Cortez, SB 247 allows the state’s 13 riverboat casinos, one land-based casino, and four racinos to apply for sports betting licenses, with 20 of these on offer. Licenses are valid for five years and allow the holder to offer both retail and online wagering.

Passing through the Senate on Wednesday, SB 142 seeks to appropriate revenue coming from sports betting. The measure estimates that the market could add as much as $50m to state coffers each year.

Tax bill HB 697 meanwhile passed through both chambers last week, setting a tax rate of 10% for retail betting and 15% for online. Operators must pay a license application fee of $250,000.

Respite for Atlantic City casinos

The coronavirus pandemic has created difficulties for the land-based casinos of New Jersey, which have only recently returned to 100% capacity. Atlantic City’s nine casinos saw table and slot game revenue fall 44% in 2020 to $1.5bn. In light of this, lawmakers have now decided to provide some relief for the state’s operators.

On Thursday, the Assembly approved a bill which exempts casinos from taxation on the first $90m of promotional credits they give to gamblers over the next two years. It also provides the casinos with taxation relief if monthly retail revenue falls below the amount from the comparable period between March 2019 and February 2020.

historic layoffs and economic destruction”

The language of the bill describes “a catastrophic and unprecedented economic contraction” in Atlantic City as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the legislation, this has caused “historic layoffs and economic destruction that will have significant negative and long lasting impacts on casino employees and Atlantic County residents.”

Other legislative action

In addition to providing COVID-19 relief on Thursday, New Jersey also approved legislation calling for a constitutional amendment for sports betting. It asks whether the state should permit wagering on New Jersey college teams or college games played in the jurisdiction – both currently illegal under state law.

Other legislation still requiring the Assembly’s approval seeks to expand the state’s gambling market in other ways. One bill would allow charitable, religious, and other organizations to conduct remote bingo or raffles, while another would permit those groups to use the proceeds to support their own organizations.