Louisiana House OKs Historical Horse Racing Legislation, Governor Signs Betting Bill One of Three

  • The Lousiana House has passed a bill permitting historical horse racing at off-track parlors
  • The legislation must now go to the Senate to approve amendments before moving forward
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed one of three sports betting bills needed for legalization 
  • Remaining bills setting the betting framework must pass before the sessions’s end Thursday
The state capitol building in Louisiana
This week, Louisiana lawmakers have voted in the state capitol building (pictured above) to approve historical horse racing legislation, while Governor John Bel Edwards has signed one of three sports betting bills. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A busy final week of the session

Louisiana residents could soon have some different options when it comes to gambling. In the final week of the session, lawmakers have been busy voting on legislation that aims to expand the market to include historical horse racing and sports betting.

off-track betting parlors in Louisiana could offer historical horse racing

Under Senate Bill 209, approved by the House on Monday, off-track betting parlors in Louisiana could offer historical horse racing machines. The legislation’s supporters say legalization of the slot-like gambling devices would benefit the state’s traditional horse racing industry.

The Senate must now approve the House’s updated version of the bill before it can proceed to Governor John Bel Edwards’s desk.

Meanwhile, Louisiana has moved one step closer to legal sports betting after the governor signed one of three betting bills. Passed on Monday, HB 697 sets the new market’s taxing framework. Accompanying bills SB 247 and SB 142 must gain passage later this week to make it into law.

Historical horse racing gets the green light

Lousiana Senate President Page Cortez is one of the main proponents behind a bill calling for the legalization of historical horse racing, proposed late in the state’s legislative session. He put forward the idea to the House Commerce Committee only two weeks ago, with no limits to the number of machines and no voter approval required.

Historical horse racing machines differ from traditional slots in the fact that the results are not random. They feature video screens showing recordings of old horse races on which gamblers can wager, with the size of the payout dependent on the number of players to have staked on it.

The strongest opposition to SB 209 came from Gene Mills, president of conservative group Louisiana Family Forum. In a note passed to legislators, he wrote: “Once again, we are being asked to roll the dice and approve a massive expansion of gambling which was introduced later in the legislative process and with many curiously unanswered questions.”

Despite Mills’ objections, the legislation passed through the House on Monday with a vote of 84-11. However, the new House version limits each off-track betting parlor to 50 machines and requires parish voters to approve new parlors.

The bill will divide revenue from betting losses on the machines between horsemen and purses. This is something Rep. John Stefanski believes will lead to “a more competitive horse racing industry,” in comments he made during an interview

One out of three bills becomes law

HB 697, approved by Governor John Bel Edwards on Monday, represents the first sports betting bill of three to gain final passage in Louisiana. It establishes the taxing and payment framework for Louisiana betting, including a $250,000 license application fee and $500,000 five-year license fee. Operators face a tax of 10% on retail bets and 15% for online wagering.

Despite HB 697 making it into law, Louisiana lawmakers still need to approve SB 247 to officially legalize sports betting in Louisiana. The protocols and oversight bill passed through the House with a vote of 78-15 last Thursday. It must now return to the Senate to approve additional language before the bill makes it to the governor.

All remaining legislation must pass before this Thursday

Seeking to appropriate revenue coming from the new sports betting market, a third bill SB 142 still requires House approval. All remaining legislation must pass before this Thursday, when the state’s legislative session ends.

Together, all bills will establish sports betting in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes which voted for legalization in November 2020. SB 247 sets the main regulatory guidelines, including 20 licenses for the state’s casinos and racinos. The legislation permits both retail and mobile wagering with up to two online skins per licensee.