Get Ready For The Carnival: Louisiana Set To Consider Sports Betting Bills

Posted on April 6, 2021

Louisiana voters asked for sports betting last November and lawmakers are promptly responding.

State legislators filed seven sports wagering bills at last Friday’s deadline to pre-file legislation.

Breaking down the bills filed, they really come down to a Senate effort and a House effort.

One bill stands out as the favorite for passage. Senate President Page Cortez put his name on legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Ronnie Johns and Rick Ward III.

It’s rare for the leader of a legislative chamber to sponsor sports betting legislation. The Maryland House Speaker did so this year, also in response to voter approval of sports betting.

Senate heavyweights back Louisiana sports betting bill

Similar to in Maryland, the Senate President assembled some of the most experienced legislators on the issue to help with his bill. Sen. Johns filed a sports betting bill last session.

Sen. Cameron Henry, who introduced the bill that passed last year putting the question of sports betting on the ballot, filed his own bill nearly identical to the one sponsored by Cortez but without including the lottery.

Here’s a look at the key details from S 202:

  • Gives the Louisiana Gaming Control Board regulatory authority of sports wagering.
  • Instructs the board to consider authorizing sports betting for the Louisiana Lottery Corporation and issue no more than 20 licenses.
  • The state’s one land-based casino, 15 riverboat casinos, and four horse racetracks get first crack at those 20 licenses. Then they are opened up to off-track betting parlors, video poker facilities, fantasy sports operators, and retail establishments such as bars and restaurants.
  • Each licensee may provide up to two skins, or individually branded websites/mobile apps.
  • If the number of applicants exceeds those specified in-state gaming facilities, the board holds a concealed bid process for the remaining suitable bidders.
  • Allows wagering on professional, college, and Olympics sports.
  • Does not permit wagering on esports, high school sports, and international sports where the majority of athletes are under the age of 18.

House offers alternative for Louisiana sports wagering

Rep. John Stefanski might not lead his legislative chamber, but he does have experience passing gambling legislation. Last year, he seized the opportunity of a special session to set up the tax and fee structure for daily fantasy sports.

His sports betting bill is the only one thus far that includes taxes and fees. It was assigned to the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. Here are the main points for H 628:

  • Gives the Louisiana Gaming Control Board regulatory authority of sports wagering.
  • Urges the board to consider authorizing the Louisiana Lottery Corporation to operate a sportsbook.
  • Appears to set no limits on how many additional entities the Board may license to operate brick-and-mortar and online sportsbooks. Doesn’t consider how many skins each licensee may offer.
  • Sets an initial application fee of $1 million with an additional $500,000 a five-year sports wagering license.
  • Platform providers pay $100,000 to apply for a five-year license that costs $50,000.
  • Service providers pay $50,000 to apply for a five-year license that costs $25,000.
  • Creates a separate retail establishment permit available for a $2,500 application fee and $100 every five years.
  • Taxes sports wagering revenue through the lottery at 40%, online through regular licensees at 30%, and in person at 15%.
  • Sports wagering revenue from the Louisiana Lottery Corporation goes into the Developmental Disability Services Subfund.

History of Louisiana sports betting efforts

After trying the last two years to pass sports betting legislation, Louisiana lawmakers pivoted at the end of last session to simply put the issue on the November ballot.

The question asked voters was:

“Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of _____?”

Residents in 55 of 64 Louisiana parishes voted yes.

That sets up one of the more complicated geofencing challenges in the country. Operators will need to ensure that mobile app users aren’t located in a parish that did not approve the proposition.

What to look for this session

The Louisiana legislature gets to work Monday for a short, two-month session concluding June 10.

Sen. Johns filed his own shell bill, as did Sen. Gary Smith Jr., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee to which the bills were assigned.

The Senate bills are missing tax and licensing fees. In Louisiana, tax bills need to pass separately and can only do so in odd years. They also must originate in the House.

Two bills, filed by Ward and Sen. Kirk Talbot, focus on language regarding the disposition of revenue but do not get into the tax and fee structure.

Cortez estimates Louisiana could make between $10 and $20 million a year from sports betting.

There’s still time for lawmakers to file additional bills before the April 21 deadline.

Photo by AP / Gerald Herbert
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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