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Louisiana Governor signs off on sports betting referendum bill


Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has signed into a law a bill to arrange a parish-by-parish referendum on whether to legalise sports betting in the state.

Introduced by Senator J Cameron Henry, SB130 allows parishes across the state to hold referendums as to whether sports betting should be permitted in each jurisdiction.

The proposition will appear on the ballot of the 3 November election, after which Louisiana lawmakers and the Gaming Control Board would set out rules for licensing, regulation and taxes in 2021.

Governor Edwards’ signature was the final hurdle for the bill, after it passed the state’s House of Representatives and Senate last month.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner McGee also proposed a bill in the 2020 session. House Bill 357 passed by a 73-23 vote last month, but did not receive a vote in the Senate. The bill is identical to Henry’s except for a minor technical amendment.

Before legal wagering will be able to go live, the legislature must develop and pass regulations, taxes and fees for the market. This is not permitted in a non-fiscal (even-numbered) year, unless the Governor calls a special fiscal session.

This can lead to difficulties that ultimately delay the enactment of legislation. In 2018, 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes voted to regulate and tax daily fantasy sports. However, Senator Daniel Martiny filibustered enabling legislation that would have opened the market, after Senator Kirk Talbot refused to attach the Senator’s sports betting bill to his fantasy sports proposal.

Also last month, Louisiana became one of the first states to reopen its casinos after a period of temporary closure enforced by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Casinos across Louisiana were permitted to reopen from May 18 after Edwards lifted a number of restrictions related to Covid-19, subject to operators adhering to a host of new healthy and safety measures aimed at protecting customers and employees.

In addition, Edwards this month appointed Lieutenant Colonel Mike Noel as the new chairman of the state’s Gaming Control Board.