Legal and regulated sports betting is quite likely on its way to Louisiana, it’s just a question of when and where. A question Louisiana lawmakers are hoping voters will help answer for them in the November 2020 election.
After a bit of posturing before the end of the Spring 2020 legislative session, both the Louisiana House and Senate agreed to ask voters in each of the state’s 64 parishes if they want legal sports betting in their backyards.
A referendum asking voters to authorize sports wagering in each parish will be on the ballot for the Nov. 3, 2020 election.
Parishes that agree could see legal sports betting come to that parish, but not before the Legislature passes bills regarding licensing, regulation, and taxation in the next legislative session.
Lawmakers will also have to consider whether to open up the entire state to online and mobile sports betting or employ geo-fencing for the specific parishes that authorize sports wagering.
The 2020 Louisiana Sports Betting Referendum
Louisiana lawmakers did not pass a bill legalizing sports betting in 2020. Instead, they passed a bill putting a referendum on legal sports betting on the Nov. 3, 2020 election ballot in each of the state’s parish 64 parishes.
Voters won’t be deciding if they want statewide Louisiana sports betting, only if they want legal sports betting in their parish.
The question on the ballot will read:
“Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of _____?”
After that it will be up to lawmakers to make a decision on sports betting licensing, regulation, taxation, and online and mobile sports wagering for the parishes that agree to permit “sports wagering activities and operations.”
Yes Or No?
In 2018, 47 of 64 parishes approved Daily Fantasy Sports in a similar referendum, suggesting most, but not all parishes will also approve sports betting in 2020.
Louisiana also enjoys a rich history of legal casino gambling with the first government-run casino in New Orleans dating back to 1753 and a state lottery dating back to 1866.
Neither lasted, and in 1920s legal pari-mutuel betting on horse races at the New Orleans Fair Grounds was the only legal gambling in the state.
In 1986, Governor Edwin Edwards proposed legalized gambling in the form of a new state lottery and a casino in New Orleans. He lost the next election to a Democrat opposed to gambling.
However, Louisiana lawmakers would wind up approving everything from riverboat casinos to the installation of video poker machines at truck stops and racetracks and a land-based casino at the foot of Canal Street in New Orleans throughout the 1990s.
Plus, at the same time, the Chitimachas, Coushattas, and Tunica-Biloxis, all federally recognized Native American tribes under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, inked agreements with the state to open land-based tribal casinos.
Harrah’s opened a temporary casino in the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park in May 1995, but it went bankrupt and closed in November of that same year.
Construction was delayed as a result, but the permanent Harrah’s New Orleans Casino on Canal Street did eventually open in October 1999 and is still operational today.
Louisiana now has 14 riverboat casinos, four racinos, and four tribal casinos open across the state, plus that one land-based commercial casino in New Orleans.
The Parishes these casinos call home will likely support the addition of sports betting as well.
Louisiana Sports Betting Legislation
A bill that would have allowed single-game wagering at the state’s four racinos and move forward with a referendum allowing voters to authorize sports wagering in approving parishes didn’t get far in 2018.
Similar legislative efforts that would have authorized sportsbooks for the state’s casinos and racetracks and give parishes a chance to decide if that’s what they wanted continued in 2019, but died in the House Appropriations Committee.
Committee members voted to retain this sports betting bill in committee and involuntarily defer it after loading it with poison-pill amendments that would never have passed.
The amendments included forcing licensed Louisiana sportsbooks to use official league data and allowing the state’s 2,800 video poker parlors to offer sports betting as well.
A list ditch effort to bring the legislation to life through conference failed in the final days of the legislative session.
2020: A New Hope
However, in May 2020, a bill aiming solely to put the question of legalizing Louisiana sports betting to voters moved through the Senate Judiciary Committee and onto the Senate floor.
Unlike other bills that expressly dealt with issues surrounding sports betting regulation, licensing, and taxation, this one simply put the question of authorizing sports betting in each parish on the November 2020 election ballot.
The idea is to see which parishes want sports betting before putting regulations and taxation in bills in the next legislative session.
The Committee’s decision left it up to the Louisiana Legislature to pass a referendum bill by June 1, 2020 that would put the sports betting question to voters on the November 2020 election ballot.
Voters could then either approve or deny Louisiana sports betting, parish by parish, and lawmakers would have to agree on how to regulate, licence, and tax sports betting in 2021. A sports betting tax bill would need to pass by a two-thirds majority and get the governor’s approval before becoming law.
Louisiana Sports Betting Referendum Bill Passes
The referendum bill passed in the Senate on May 13, 2020 and moved to the House of Representatives. It passed by a vote of 29-9 and was received in the House and referred to the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. But not before an amendment was added on the Senate floor specifying the Louisiana Gaming Control Board would regulate sports betting in the state.
At first, the House refused to pass the referendum bill as is, instead adding a section declaring that participation in sports wagering not be considered “gambling by computer.” Apparently, this was an effort to allow casinos to input wagers into computers without running afoul of online gambling laws.
This measure would have sent the bill back into the hands of the Senate, where it would need to go through committee again before reaching the floor for another vote.
However, the House came back on May 27, 2020 and voted 71-24 to pass the same Louisiana sports betting referendum bill passed by the Senate.
The bill is now a law putting a referendum to authorize sports wagering on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot in all 64 Louisiana parishes.
Voters will now decide if they want sports betting in their parish and lawmakers will be tasked with coming up with a way to regulate, license, and tax it in 2021.
Will Louisiana legalize online and mobile sports betting?
The only thing the 2020 Louisiana sports betting referendum law does is formally ask voters if they want sports betting in their parish.
It does not deal with the regulation, licensing, and taxation of sports betting, except to say the Louisiana Gaming Control Board will ultimately regulate sports betting in approving parishes.
That means the question of whether sportsbooks will be permitted at commercial casinos, racinos, video poker parlours, or anywhere else has yet to be answered.
Nor has a decision been made on taxation.
That also means after each parish decides whether to opt in or out of sports betting, it will be up to lawmakers to decide on the issue of online and mobile wagering in the state.
Lawmakers could allow for statewide online and mobile betting in enabling sports betting legislation in 2021.
Lawmakers could also allow for online and mobile betting in approving parishes only, forcing operators to geofence out the others. Plus, lawmakers could opt to make Louisiana a retail-sport-betting-only state.
Where will I be able to bet on sports in Louisiana?
The 2020 Louisiana sports betting referendum will ask voters in the November 2020 election whether they want sports betting in their parish or not.
Although it does say the Louisiana Gaming Control Board will regulate sports betting, it does not deal with the specific issues of regulation, licensing, or taxation.
That means after each parish decides whether or not it wants sports betting, it will be up to lawmakers to decide where exactly sportsbooks will be permitted inside approving parishes.
Previous sports betting legislation introduced in Louisiana that sought to clearly define where licensed sportsbooks could open and operate up did not pass.
The locations usually included racetracks, casinos, video poker parlours, or some combination of these three.
The hope is that hearing from voters first will help lawmakers decide.
Louisiana now has 14 riverboat casinos, one land-based commercial casino in New Orleans, four racinos, and four tribal casinos. As long as the parishes where these casinos and racetracks operate support the addition of sports betting, the state’s first sportsbooks are likely going to open there.
A proposal to allow the state’s approximately 2,800 video poker parlors to offer sports betting helped kill Louisiana sports betting legislation in 2019.
That makes it highly unlikely video poker parlors will be authorized to take bets on sports in Louisiana.
However, it’s all up the air now.
Voters will either approve or deny Louisiana sports betting, parish by parish, in November 2020. Then, lawmakers will get together in 2021 to make a decision on exactly where you can bet on sports inside the state and design legislation to regulate, licence, and tax it.
When will I be able to bet online in Louisiana?
The passage of the 2020 Louisiana sports betting referendum bill ensures the question of whether voters want sports betting in their parish will be on the ballot in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.
After that, it will be up to Louisiana lawmakers to enact legislation to govern spots betting inside approving parishes. The earliest that can happen will be the 2021 legislative session scheduled to run April 12, 2021 through June 10, 2021.
This legislation will have to define how Louisiana sports betting licensing and regulation will work, who can open a sportsbook, and whether online and mobile sports wagering will be legal.
It will also have to set a tax rate on sports betting revenue. In Louisiana, tax bills require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
Even assuming all this can get agreed upon and passed before the June 10, 2021 end-of-the-legislative-session date, Louisiana’s first legal and regulated sportsbooks won’t exactly be ready to open the next day.
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board will obviously need some time to complete whatever sports betting licensing process is approved. Plus, operators will require some time to prepare to launch.
That means the state’s first sportsbooks aren’t likely to launch until the Fall of 2021 at the earliest.
That said, in 2018, 47 of 64 parishes approved Daily Fantasy Sports in a similar referendum, but Louisiana lawmakers have yet to pass legislation regulating and taxing Daily Fantasy Sports.
What sports will I be able to bet on in Louisiana?
Once again, the Louisiana sports betting referendum bill passed by the legislature in May 2020 will only ask voters in the upcoming November 2020 election if they want sports betting in their parish. It does not define the parameters of Louisiana sports betting.
After each parish decides if it wants sports betting or not, lawmakers will define what form and shape sports betting will take inside the state. They will likely do that during the 2021 legislative session.
However, looking at previous debates over sports betting law in the state, it’s easy to see that unlike some states that limit what sports are available for wagering, Louisiana will be open to most pro and college sports betting.
High school and youth league sports betting will likely be the only restriction with Louisiana joining most states in prohibiting betting on amateur sports involving minors.
Here’s a list of the sports you should be able to bet son in Louisiana:
- Football (NFL and NCAA)
- Baseball (MLB)
- Basketball (NBA and NCAA)
- Hockey (NHL)
- Mixed martial arts (UFC)
- Golf (PGA, European)
- Motorsports (NASCAR, Formula 1)
- Soccer (MLS, EPL, Other European Leagues)
- Tennis (Grand Slam, ATP, WTP)
That means you will be able to bet on the two pro sports teams in Louisiana: The NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
Plus, you should be able to bet on NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams including:
- Louisiana State Tigers
- Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
- Tulane Green Wave
- University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
- University of Louisiana at Monroe
And, NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball teams including
- Grambling State Tigers
- Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
- Louisiana–Monroe Warhawks
- Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
- LSU Tigers
- McNeese State Cowboys
- New Orleans Privateers
- Nicholls Colonels
- Northwestern State Demons
- Southeastern Louisiana Lions
- Southern Jaguars
- Tulane Green Wave
More obscure international sports like Australian rules football, cricket, darts, and rugby should also be available for wagering in Louisiana.