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Lawmakers renew efforts to bring legal betting to Louisiana


With Louisiana’s 2020 legislative session beginning yesterday (March 9), five lawmakers in the state’s House of Representatives and Senate have put forward bills to legalize sports betting.

These efforts largely centre around passing legislation that allows for a statewide referendum on legal wagering, rather than allowing for an immediate roll-out. This is down to the fact that the state only considers fiscal matters in odd-numbered years, unless the Governor calls a special fiscal session. 

This ultimately resulted in efforts to pass legislation regulating and taxing fantasy sports – which was approved by 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes in 2018 – in the 2019 session.

That year saw outgoing Senator Daniel Martiny filibuster a fantasy sports bill, after its sponsor, Senator Kirk Talbot, refused to attach the Senator’s sports betting bill to his proposal.

With no sign of Governor John Bel Edwards calling a special fiscal session for 2020, the focus is largely on building consensus on legal betting via a referendum. 

Talbot, the lawmaker whose fantasy sports bill came within minutes of passing in 2019, has put forward Senate Bill 66, which would put whether to allow sports betting to the parishes on the November 3 ballot. A competing bill, SB130 from Senator J. Cameron Henry, Jr, looks to achieve the same thing, with both proposals sent to the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary. 

In the House, Representative Tanner MacGee has put forward House Bill 357 to push for a sports betting referendum, which will be considered by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice.

More expanded proposals have been put froward by Senator Ronnie Johns with SB378 and Senator Barrow Peacock’s SB332. These bills look to hold a referendum, but also set out operating conditions for future licensees.

While the text does not set out a tax rate for the market, it limits betting to those aged 21 and above, with no athletes or officials involved in professional sports permitted to bet. Wagering would be limited to within the walls of a riverboat or land-based casino, or at a racetrack, though it appears this would include mobile betting. 

Intrastate betting pools may also be allowed under the Act, provided the Louisiana Gaming Control Board determines that it does not contravene federal or state law. As the bill is filed in a non-fiscal year, there is no mention of tax rates or license fees. These would need to be attached by a separate piece of legislation to be filed in 2021. Each bill also sits with the Committee on the Judiciary.

Peacock has also filed SB331, through which he aims to reenact the fantasy sports provisions approved by 47 parishes in 2018. This would establish a licensing regime for the vertical, as well as restricting players to those aged 21 and above, and restricting athletes and officials from competing in the contests. 

There is no tax rate, whereas Talbot’s 2019 bill aimed to charge a $15,000 license fee and 15% tax on revenue. That too sits with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Christopher Hebert, director of the gaming division for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, Jennifer Roberts, director of sports gaming regulation for the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation and Jay McDaniel, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission will be among the legislators, regulators and operators dissecting The state of play for sports betting in the Southern States at 11:50 on Day 1 of ICE North America on 13 May 2020. You can register for North Americas free-to-attend gaming and hospitality show here.