Louisiana sports betting bills fails for second consecutive year
Legal Sports Report

It’s Bye Bye Bayou As Louisiana Sports Betting Bill Falls Short

Louisiana sports betting

The people of Louisiana will not have the opportunity to approve legal sports betting in their state this year.

After straddling the fence for a few days, lawmakers failed to pass a Louisiana sports betting bill on the final day of the session. Even worse, failure to approve for the daily fantasy sports tax mechanism seems to leave that industry in limbo too.

The initial purpose of H 459 was to establish revenue allocation for DFS — legalized via referendum last year — but a late attempt to stuff it with Louisiana sports betting language went fully awry.

The House previously scuttled a standalone sports betting bill in committee, and bickering between chambers ultimately derailed the train altogether.

LA sports betting effort falls apart

There was a time not so long ago that passage of the bill from Sen. Danny Martiny appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

His proposed model for Louisiana sports betting would have authorized sportsbooks for the state’s casinos and race tracks starting in 2020. It required a local referendum in each parish, so Martiny was merely going to offer residents the chance to decide if that’s what they wanted.

The sponsor had a good grasp on LA sports betting, and S 153 had good support as he ushered it through the Senate in April.

In late May, though, the House Appropriations committee loaded the bill with poison-pill amendments. The inclusion of video poker parlors and a mandate to use official league data put the bill in an unpassable posture.

Martiny and gaming stakeholders sat before the members and begged them not to destroy their work, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. The group adopted both amendments without objection and retained the bill in committee.

DFS stuck in no-man’s land?

Although the sponsor kept working to find an angle right up until adjournment, that vote was pretty much the end of the road for Louisiana sports betting. And the disjointed effort thereafter created potentially drastic consequences for fantasy sports.

During that committee hearing, Martiny told members that he intended to undo any changes by amending the DFS mechanism. He subsequently tried through two different vehicles, one dealing with regulation (H 459) and the other with taxes (H 600).

The maneuver landed the two bills in conference during the final few hours of the session, and Martiny could not sway the small group.

Bet you can’t, Louisiana

The five other conferees stripped sports betting provisions from the final reported version. Sen. Page Cortez flatly explained the changes to the full chamber: “Danny Martiny’s bill no longer exists.”

The defeated sponsor took the opportunity to air his grievances and created a sense he intentionally ran out the clock on the floor. While H 459 snuck through the adoption process, the Senate did not approve the changes to H 600 before adjourning sine die.

Where that leaves DFS is anybody’s guess for now. It’s legal and eligible for regulation but there is no tax mechanism in place.

Sports betting loses a top-shelf proponent

Louisiana was not alone in fiddling around with sports betting right up until the final gavel. The issue has come down to the wire in more than one legislature this year, including Indiana and Illinois.

Unlike Louisiana, though, lawmakers in those states approved sports betting on the last day of their sessions. Illinois actually needed two days of overtime to get its bill across the goal line, and a ballot measure is also up for a vote in Colorado this fall.

For the second consecutive year, though, Louisiana missed the steamboat. Lawmakers don’t return to session until March, so it’ll be a long while before they consider the issue again.

Term limits force Martiny out of office next year too, creating a vacuum of knowledge on the topic. Few lawmakers in the country have been such avid proponents of sports betting legislation over the past year or so.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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