Sports Betting Could Be A Hard Sell In Louisiana

Upcoming DFS Vote Could Be A Window Into Appetite For Louisiana Sports Betting

Louisiana sports betting

If Louisiana wants to gauge residents’ temperature on sports betting, the state’s top gaming regulator says to use the November vote on daily fantasy sports as a starting point.

“The same kind of people that play fantasy sports are the kind, at least a portion, that are going to bet on sports,” Jones told the Senate Judiciary B Committee on Wednesday.

The seven-member committee heard testimony from several stakeholders on topics ranging from Louisiana sports betting and riverboat casino regulations to the fiasco over extending Harrah’s casino contract.

“I think a window into how Louisiana people feel about sports betting is going to be revealed in two weeks when every parish votes on fantasy sports,” said Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

Louisiana sports betting appetite

Lawmakers failed to pass legislation to allow for Louisiana sports betting during the state’s 2018 legislative session.

One result: watching neighboring Mississippi become the only state in the South to capitalize off the US Supreme Court’s PASPA decision.

Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, was also in attendance. He discussed how lucrative MS sports betting has been thus far.

According to the MS Gaming Commission, the first full month of sports betting with football resulted in nearly $5.5 million in revenue for the state and that was without mobile wagering.

Louisiana needs mobile wagering

“If you really wanted to eliminate the black market, you would have brick-and-mortar and mobile opportunities,” Jones said. “Mississippi just has physical sportsbooks.”

Godfrey agreed, by saying in the states that have mobile, it’s big.

“If you want to do something to suppress illegal sports betting – mobile betting is the way to go,” he said.

New Jersey mobile sports betting already outperforms land-based betting. According to industry sources, roughly three-quarters of sports betting now take place on mobile devices in Nevada.

Lawmakers in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and the District of Columbia have all hinted at introducing a mobile component as part of any sports betting bill introduced next year.

Path to legalization in Louisiana

Louisiana sports betting will have to overcome several hurdles before any type of legislation is passed. That in part means overcoming conservative opposition from religious groups who oppose the expansion of gambling.

“If we don’t address it, the world will be way out ahead of Louisiana and we’re going to be lagging behind,” said Senator Norby Chabert.

Lawmakers had to fight to get riverboats moved land-side, and the state will vote November 6 on which parishes will have daily fantasy sports.

One of the biggest supporters of sports wagering, Senator Daniel Martiny, said he plans on re-introducing legislation in the 2019 legislative session. Jones said if lawmakers take a similar rout as they did with DFS, a referendum would only be needed in parishes that already have casino gaming.

“It occurred to me, if you just authorize [sports betting] at the 20 licensed casinos, it would seem to me that you would only need a referendum where those licensed activities take place,” Jones said.

Nicholaus Garcia
- Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five-year stint in Chicago, where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.