The legislative process for Louisiana sports betting is pushing toward the finish line this week.
Appropriations bill SB 142 passed the Senate on Wednesday. Meanwhile, regulatory bill SB 247 is scheduled for a third and final reading in the House on Thursday.
Tax bill HB 697 is all the way through both chambers. It now awaits Gov. John Bel Edwards‘ signature.
Legislators are optimistic they can pass all three pieces of legislation and launch sports betting in Louisiana before the end of NFL betting this fall. Temporary licenses will help launch online betting while casinos build retail sportsbooks.
Trio of LA sports betting bills
All three bills are to enact sports betting in Louisiana, which voters in 55 of 64 parishes approved last fall. Sports betting will only be allowed in those 55 parishes.
Senate President Patrick Page Cortez is the sponsor of SB 247, the main regulatory bill. Senator Rick Ward sponsored SB 142 while also escorting the bills on the Senate floor.
Rep. John Stefanski sponsored HB 697, as tax bills legally must originate in the House. Tax bills and lottery changes, which his bill contains, also require a two-thirds vote.
Sports betting tax revenue appropriated
Ward’s bill sat idle in the Senate for nearly a month as details were ironed out.
The Senate called the bill for a vote on Wednesday. It passed 33-3 with specifics on where tax revenue from sports betting will go in Louisiana:
- 1% to the Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund
- 20% to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund
- 10% by proportionate distribution to each parish which taxable conduct occurred
- 1% to the Sports Wagering Purse Supplemental Fund
- Remaining money to the general fund
Stefanski estimated the state could generate $20 million annually in taxes.
Sports betting regulatory bill up for final vote
Cortez’s bill spent two weeks waiting for its day on the House floor. That comes Thursday after passing the Senate, 31-6, on May 19.
His bill establishes 20 licenses in Louisiana: one each for 15 riverboat casinos, four racetracks and one land-based casino. Each license can operate a retail sportsbook and utilize up to two online skins.
Bettors can register online or in-person for mobile sports wagering.
Tax bill in the bag
Stefanski’s bill takes care of the tax and fee structure. That bill passed the House, 78-24, on May 10. The Senate approved it, 32-4, on May 20.
The bill levies a 10% tax on retail sports betting and a 15% tax on online sports betting in Louisiana. It also establishes a $250,000 application fee and $500,000 initial five-year license fee.
Stefanski’s legislation also establishes a license for the Louisiana Lottery. This will essentially act as a mobile license, while also allowing kiosks at bars and restaurants in the state.
Quick pace in Louisiana
Sports betting in LA seems to be avoiding the issues daily fantasy sports struggled with since voters approved that industry in November 2018. DFS operator applications were just opened in February with launch expected this fall.
The main hurdle for DFS was a tax bill, which took two sessions before Stefanski led a successful effort.
The sponsors and several other legislators have been vocal about the need to finish the process this year to satisfy voter intent. So far, the votes seem to suggest smooth sailing for the rest of the Louisiana sports betting legislative process.
“Once again, Louisiana finds itself following the lead of states around us,” Sen. Ronnie Johns said on the Senate floor on May 19. “This vote today was actually taken this past fall when 65% of people in this stat said we want to do this.
“The people have spoken on this.”