The original goal of launching Louisiana sports betting during the 2021 football season is in jeopardy.
That news came in a Lafayette Daily Advertiser interview with Senate President Patrick Page Cortez, one of the main sponsors for Louisiana sports betting legislation. Cortez and fellow sponsors Senator Rick Ward and Rep. John Stefanski hoped to launch sports betting by the fall during their push to pass legislation.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed all three pieces of legislation, including two last week.
“It’s a little bit of a hiccup,” Cortez told the Daily Advertiser. “We don’t have a Gaming Control Board chair, and until then the board can’t promulgate the rules.”
No Louisiana sports betting without LGCB chair
Former Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chair Mike Noel resigned June 9. Noel was approaching a Senate confirmation hearing, which could have included questions around his time with the Louisiana State Police. Noel was the LSP Chief of Staff during the death of Ronald Greene during an arrest in May 2019.
Edwards appointed Noel to the LGCB chair position in June 2020, when he retired from the police. Aside from the conspicuous timing of the resignation, there were no indications the resignation was directly related to the incident or if there were doubts about his confirmation chances, according to an Associated Press report.
Legislators gave the bills emergency status — the laws are effective July 1 — and granted the LGCB the ability to allocate provisional launches for quick mobile launches for football season. But as Cortez noted, the launch is in limbo until a new chair is installed.
LGCB is quietly working
In an email to LSR Tuesday, an LGCB spokesperson said the chair acts as the agency’s Public Information Officer. Without a PIO, the email pointed to the June LGCB meeting for an update.
“Our office and state police have begun drafting the sports wagering regulations and we anticipate the rules being ready to be presented to the board in the upcoming months,” Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Lisha Landry said during the June 17 meeting.
Casino Association of Louisiana Executive Director Wade Duty told The Advocate the process can go unimpeded for a few more weeks before a “fork in the road.”
New LGCB chair soon?
The governor’s spokesperson, Christina Stephen, told the Daily Advertiser an appointment is coming “sooner rather than later.”
Among the rumored candidates is Senator Ronnie Johns. He was among the strong supporters of the sports betting bills passed this session and is a previous backer of gaming legislation.
“Once again, Louisiana finds itself following the lead of states around us,” Johns said prior to a Senate vote on the main regulatory bill, SB 247. “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.”
Louisiana sports betting delay foreshadowed?
The legislative process for Louisiana sports betting was fairly quick and streamlined. Stefanski told LSR that was likely because of the voter mandate from November 2020 when 55 of 64 parishes and 65% of all voters approved sports betting.
That speed left optimism the launch goal of this fall was obtainable.
There is precedent for the Lousiana delay, however, as daily fantasy sports have yet to launch despite voter approval in 2018. The LGCB began accepting DFS operator applications in February.
Plenty waiting in Louisiana
The legislation allocates 20 licenses to the state’s 20 casinos and racinos. It also provides for a license for the Louisiana Lottery.
The 20 main licenses will offer retail sportsbooks and up to two online skins. The lottery license will act as an online license, as well as kiosks at local bars and restaurants.
The state will levy a 10% tax on retail bets and 15% on mobile bets. Stefanski expects the state can generate $20 million annually from LA sports betting.