Louisiana Sports Betting Referendum Bill Clears First Major Hurdle

Posted on May 13, 2020

A bill, which put the question of legalizing Louisiana sports betting in front of state parishes, passed in the Senate on Wednesday.

The Louisiana sports betting legislation moves to the House of Representatives, which is in session until June 1.

If a majority of parishes approve, the legislature needs to pass two bills next year, determining the details and tax for sports betting in Louisiana.

Sen. Cameron Henry sees this path as the best way to pass enabling legislation by showing lawmakers that constituents in their parishes want LA sports betting.

“I know that sports wagering is a sensitive issue for a lot of folks, which is why we put it in this format here. … You will be able to look at results of what your constituents want you to do as it relates to sports wagering going forward. It is the safest way to get this done.

“You can come back and say, ‘Cameron, my folks love sports wagering. We’re all for it. I can help you with passing the tax and regulations.’ Or you’re going to come back and say, ‘Cameron, my folks don’t like it so I can’t really help you on it.’”

Still a long path to LA betting

In Louisiana, voters can’t always get what they want.

In 2018, voters in 47 of 64 parishes approved daily fantasy sports. Two years later, the major DFS sites don’t operate in the state because legislators haven’t passed enabling and tax bills.

Tax legislation is particularly difficult to pass in Louisiana. Revenue bills are limited to odd-numbered years. They need support from two-thirds of lawmakers to pass.

New Orleans Saints fans in Louisiana could have the opportunity to place legal sports bets by the next NFL season. But lawmakers will need to move with more urgency next session than they have on DFS.

Oversight of Louisiana sports betting

Henry’s bill in the Senate passed by a vote of 29-9. It was received in the House and referred to the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.

The sports betting proposition language in S 130 is as follows:

“Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of _____?”

Henry added an amendment on the Senate floor specifying that the Louisiana Gaming Control Board would regulate sports betting.

The bill allows voters in individual parishes to decide if they want sports betting in their area. This could lead to a fractured path for mobile sports betting in Louisiana, with some parts of the state geofenced out.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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