Watch out Maryland, Louisiana is coming for your crown of most inclusive sports betting bill.
All bars and restaurants in the state with a liquor license plus lottery retailers will have the opportunity to get sports betting kiosks in a new substitute offered by Rep. John Stefanski.
“Our bars here in Louisiana got hammered by COVID,” Stefanski told PlayLouisiana. “The governor ordered all of them closed. For both the Senate President and Speaker of the House, it’s a priority to provide some kind of mechanism for these local businesses to participate.”
Stefanski offered the substitute Wednesday morning in the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee adopted the substitute, which also lowered tax rates and fees, and advanced Stefanski’s H 628 to the House floor.
What Louisiana businesses could get sports betting
Louisiana’s 15 riverboat casinos, four racinos, and one land-based casino will lead sports betting in the state.
The bill permits sports betting kiosks at any establishment that as a Class A-General retail or restaurant permit for the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption. Many of these properties already offer video poker.
The bill also permits the Louisiana Lottery Corporation to partner with a sports betting operator to offer one mobile app. Then the lottery can offer a sports betting mechanism through its approximately 2,900 businesses throughout Louisiana that sell lottery tickets. These include gas stations, convenience stores, truck stops, and grocery stores.
Bars, restaurants, and lottery retailers only need to pay a $1,000 application fee plus $100 for a one-year permit.
The difference between Louisiana and what Maryland passed earlier this month is that Maryland allows any state business to apply for one of 60 mobile licenses. Louisiana limits online sportsbook to 20 casino properties.
Stefanski admitted he has doubts if kiosks in bars and restaurants will work when patrons can bet from their phones.
“The casino guys say a kiosk model is never going to work when people can bet from their phones,” Stefanski said. “But I think there’s some citizens who maybe don’t bet as much, don’t want a betting app linked from their phone and just want to bet on a machine and take a paper voucher. If a bar owner has that option, maybe it gets the patron to stay longer watching a game. Maybe it doesn’t work, but at least we gave local business the chance to participate.”
Taxes and fees lowered in committee substitute
In Louisiana, tax bills must originate in the House.
Stefanski introduced his bill with a tax rate of 30% for online wagers and 15% for in-person wagers. His substitute lowers the tax rate to 18% for online wagers and 10% for bets placed in person. The lottery operator is taxed at 30%.
He also lowered the application fee for casinos from $1 million to $250,000. The five-year license fee remains $500,000.
He pointed out that licensees get a tax break of $2.5 million for promotional play, making the 18% more palatable.
Stefanski deliberated with Senate President Page Cortez and industry representatives before coming up with the lower rates.
“Everyone pretty much universally thought that 30% was too high,” Stefanski said. “I thought that 18% is a good spot, a little higher than some places but lower than some others. Dropping in-person to 10% to give them incentive to get people in the door I think creates a good balance. There were a lot of casinos who liked the idea of a lower rate to come into the casinos.”
What’s next for Louisiana sports betting efforts
Sports wagering is a priority issue among Louisiana legislators this session after voters in 55 of 64 parishes asked for the activity last November.
Although it seems sports betting will be widespread in the state, it won’t be allowed in the nine parishes that voted against it. No bars or restaurants in those regions along the northern part of the state can participate. And mobile apps will need to geofence out those parishes.
Even though his bill will reach the floor next week, Stefanski said not to expect his bill to get a quick House vote.
“I’m going to work the floor for any concerns people have,” Stefanski said. “I want to make sure the language works, especially with the lottery. Now that we’ve settled on the tax rates and fee structure, I want to have conversations with all in the industry to make sure everything is going to work.”
Stefanski indicated that Louisiana will need to pass three sports betting bills this session. His bill takes care of the taxes, fees, and lottery language. Cortez’s S 202 establishes the sports betting regulatory structure and Sen. Rick Ward’s S 142 appropriates the sports betting revenue from casinos licensees.
All the lawmakers are working together to do their part, according to Stefanski. Because it involves taxes and changes to the lottery, his bill will need to pass by a two-thirds vote. The other two bills require a simple majority.
“I just want sports betting to become a reality,” Stefanski told the committee. “I don’t want us to fumble the ball again and everybody’s looking at us around the state going, ‘Well, we passed it and you all couldn’t do your end of the bargain.’”