The representative behind a key Louisiana sports betting bill is optimistic it will pass.
Rep. John Stefanski told LSR he will spend this week meeting with fellow House members talking about HB 697. He plans to take the bill up on the floor for a third reading next week.
The bill received approval as a substitute for HB 628 from the House Ways and Means Committee on April 21.
How it fits into LA sports betting
The bill is one of three, along with SB 142 and SB 202, that is necessary to enact sports betting in Louisiana. Voters in 55 of the state’s 64 parishes voted to legalize sports betting in November 2020.
“Any time with a tax and fee bill, you have a sect that will never vote on any fees, some say no with any taxes, some are no with gambling,” Stefanski said. “You have the trifecta in my bill, then the lottery. I’m going to have to spend some time with the members this next week.”
The bill is scheduled for a third reading and final passage in the House tomorrow.
Fees and taxes and sports betting
Stefanski is handling the tax and fee structures for LA sports betting because tax bills must originate in the House.
In conjunction with SB 202, the state’s 20 licenses require a $250,000 application fee and a $500,000 license fee for five years. The bill levies a 10% tax on retail sportsbook bets and an 18% tax on mobile wagers.
“I’m pretty comfortable with it,” Stefanski said. “I don’t think it’ll be easy. We go back to gambling, fees and taxing, that gives members a lot of heartburn for a lot of reasons. I’m still very optimistic.”
Lottery aspect adds complexity in Louisiana
Senate President Patrick Cortez’s SB 202 outlines regulation of the industry, except for a lottery component. Stefanski’s bill implements a lottery license because, like the tax and fee structure, any changes to the state lottery need a two-thirds vote to pass.
The bill would essentially give the Louisiana Lottery a mobile license. It would also allow local bars and restaurants to participate through lottery kiosks.
“The motivation for that is an attempt to find a way to bring retail in. I’m hearing from bars and restaurants they want an opportunity to participate,” Stefanski said. “The lottery is not in sports gaming right now … that’s the biggest hurdle for me, not the tax rate and fee structure. That’s pretty easy.”
Senate side a bit easier
Cortez’s SB 202 was heard on Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary B Committee. Cortez said an adopted substitute bill was worked on until Monday night.
He asked for the bill to be held in committee until the House bill is in Senate hands. There will be a full hearing in the committee next week.
“Anytime the Senate President puts his name on a bill, it pretty much tells you it’s important to him,” Stefanski said.
Sports betting smoother than daily fantasy?
Stefanski said some constituents are confused why sports betting in LA hasn not already launched after they voted to approve it.
Many voters also approved daily fantasy sports in 2018. The state just started accepting DFS operator applications in February after a slow legislative process to enact it.
Stefanski believes the sports betting process will be smoother.
“With fantasy sports, one of our issues was not a lot of people understood what it was,” he said. “People understand sports betting. It passed pretty significantly in 55 of 64 parishes. People of Louisiana want it, so we need to make sure it happens.”