Sports Betting Nears Goal Line in Louisiana as Legislature Enters Final Week

With a week left in the Louisiana legislative session, bills to allow sports betting are making their way to the governor’s desk for approval. This means sport betting, including on smartphones, could be legal in the state by football season.

Rep. Rick Ward, Sen. Page Cortez
Rep. Rick Ward, Sen. Page Cortez
Sens. Rick Ward, left, and Page Cortez (both R) address other lawmakers at a legislative hearing this year in Baton Rouge. Both legislators have introduced sports betting bills. (Image: The Advocate)

The state House of Representatives on Thursday approved Senate Bill 247 on a 78-15 vote. Sponsored by Senate President Page Cortez (R), the bill would require the state’s 13 riverboat casinos, one land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos to pay $250,000 to apply for a license to set up a sports betting operation, according to The Advocate newspaper.

The bill already has passed in the Senate but must return there so senators can concur on some amendments added in the House.

The bill allows for 20 sports betting licenses. However, one riverboat casino in Northwestern Louisiana has closed permanently. Another in the southwestern part of the state was damaged in a hurricane that ripped through Lake Charles last year. The Lake Charles casino is expected to reopen by 2022.  

The casinos that clear the vetting process would pay $500,000 for a license that lasts five years. The bill by the Lafayette senator allows for mobile sports betting and on-site wagering. The casinos in the state are expected to construct sportsbooks.

In November, voters in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved a ballot measure allowing sports betting within the boundaries of their parish. The measure did not specify whether bettors could use their smartphones to place a wager. That issue was left for lawmakers to decide this session. The two-month legislative session at the Capitol in Baton Rouge runs from April 12 to June 10 at 6 pm.  

Tax Rates Set

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) already has one sport betting bill awaiting his signature. The House and Senate earlier this session approved House Bill 697. 

This bill, sponsored by Rep. John Stefanski (R), sets a 10 percent tax rate on sports bets place inside casinos and other establishments, such as bars, where wagering would be allowed. The tax rate is 15 percent if a bet is placed on a smartphone or computer.

The tax, in both instances, would be on the amount left over after winning bettors have been paid. The revenue would go into the Sports Wagering Enforcement Fund managed by the state treasury, The Advocate reported.

Another measure, Senate Bill 142 by Sen. Rick Ward (R), was approved in the Senate on a 33-3 vote Wednesday. It now heads to the House for consideration. This bill would determine where the revenue from sports betting is to be spent. Estimates are that sports betting could bring $10 million to $50 million into the state treasury.

Under SB142, one percent of the proceeds would go to the Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund, while 20 percent would be earmarked for the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. Another 10 percent would go to participating parishes. One percent would go to the State Racing Commission. The remainder would be set aside in the state general fund to be used for purposes that legislators agree upon every year.

No Mobile Betting Nearby

If approved, as expected, Louisiana would be the only state in the area with legal mobile sports betting. 

Two bordering states, Arkansas and Mississippi, allowed in-person sports betting inside casinos. Mobile sports betting could occur in Arkansas and Mississippi if the bettor were using an app while on casino property. However, none of the casinos in either state offer that service.

Texas does not allow sports betting and does not have legal commercial casinos.

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