Louisiana took the first step in passing legislation to implement sports betting Monday.
The Louisiana House passed H 697, which establishes the taxes and fees for sports wagering. As a tax bill, it required passage by two-thirds of members. It exceeded that total with a vote of 77-24.
Offered by Rep. John Stefanski, H 697 is one of three complementary bills to answer the call of Louisiana voters last November to legalize sports betting in 55 of 64 parishes. It’s joined by Senate President Page Cortez’s regulation bill and Sen. Rick Ward’s appropriation bill.
Before passing the bill, Stefanski added an amendment with two significant changes. He lowered the mobile wagering tax rate to 15% and removed participation of most lottery retailers.
Cortez’s bill advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Changes to Louisiana sports betting bill
Stefanski’s bill focuses on the lottery aspect and tax structure for Louisiana sports betting. The bill also permits the Louisiana Lottery Corporation to partner with a sports betting operator to offer one online sportsbook app.
In previous language, the more than 2,900 lottery retailers in the state could have sports betting kiosks.
Now the bill limits the retail component to bars and restaurants with Class A-General retail or restaurant permits for the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption. For dry counties, Stefanski explained that traditional food consumption venues can apply to participate.
After starting with sky-high tax rates of 30% for online and 15% for retail, the bill as passed by the House sits at 15% for online and 10% for retail. The 15% for online betting includes the sportsbook app through the lottery.
Louisiana Senate begins sports betting action as well
The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted a substitute for Cortez’s bill and advanced it from committee.
In the substitute, esports now are a permitted form of sports wagering. They were specifically prohibited in the bill as introduced.
The substitute also clarifies that licensees can use their own brand, a sports betting operator’s brand or both on a mobile app.
Cortez’s bill allows for 20 sports betting licenses at Louisiana’s 15 riverboat casinos, four racinos, and one land-based casino. Each licensee gets two online skins. Casinos pay $500,000 for a five-year license with a $250,000 application fee.
Cortez indicated that if all 20 licenses aren’t filled because companies own multiple casinos, truck stops and off-track betting parlors could bid for that license.
Committee chair Sen. Gary Smith stated that he wants to look at the cap of 20 licenses. He believes there might be more local companies with the wherewithal to participate at that level.
“I have a great concern for a lot of comments from people through the process that our locals voted this in, and we want to make sure that we get it out to them and that our locals have a chance to participate in this in a meaningful way,” Smith said.
What’s next for Louisiana sports betting
The House sports betting bill now heads to the Senate, which should give it a warm reception. Stefanski worked closely with Senate President Cortez on the language.
Louisiana tribal casinos don’t receive mention in any of the bills. However, they would get sports betting because they are allowed to offer the same games as casinos.
In asking for passage, Stefanski explained that sports betting is important to a lot of constituents who voted for its legalization.
“The people spoke, and they’re looking to us and saying why can’t we play right now? … Because we have to tax it, we have to regulate it, and this is an important part of that.”