While the Louisiana governor signed one sports betting bill this week, another got caught in limbo.
In a surprise move, the Senate did not concur with amendments to the sports betting regulatory bill Tuesday. That sends S 247 to a conference committee between legislative leaders from each chamber. The Louisiana legislative session ends Thursday.
On Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the sports betting tax and lottery participation bill passed by the legislature in May.
Delay not likely to derail sports betting bill
Both branches of the legislature have committed to completing sports betting legislation this session, answering the call of voters.
They’ve already passed H 697, the sports betting tax bill signed by the governor. And they’re working to complete a revenue allocation bill.
So there’s no doubt they will come to an agreement on S 247. There’s no revenue to distribute without it.
Sen. Rick Ward indicated that this move was so the chambers could “finish” the bill.
“Having looked through the amendments, there’s a number of them,” Ward said. “So at this time, we’re going to move to reject the House amendments and send this into conference so we can finish out the work and make sure everything is in order.”
A look at House amendments to S 247
So what were these House amendments that caused the Senate pause?
The House made two sets of amendments, one by the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice and the other on the House floor by Rep. John Stefanski.
Stefanski has been working in lockstep with Senate President Page Cortez, sponsor of S 247, all session. He previously told PlayLouisiana his amendments would be agreeable to Cortez. So any concerns with the Senate likely lie with the committee amendments.
The Senate summarized the House changes, many of which are technical in nature. Here’s a look at the ones with more substance:
- Only servers responsible for the processing of sports wagers shall be required to physically locate in Louisiana. Clarifies that nothing in the chapter prevents the use of cloud computing.
- Deletes requirement for the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to provide by rule for the minimum requirements of a contract between the licensee and its platform provider.
- Clarifies that a player’s online account may be established and verified in person or remotely. Adds that a licensee shall house its onsite sportsbook in a sports wagering lounge.
- Changes skins language from allowing licensees to offer no more than two individually branded websites to contracting with no more than two sports wagering platform providers who may each provide individually branded websites.
- Regarding promotional play, adds provisions regarding the cap applying per licensee, prohibiting the stacking of caps by licensees who pool wagers, and prohibiting a licensee from splitting promotion play between platform providers.
- Authorizes “games” at land-based casinos include parimutuel horse wagering provided the casino gaming operator contracts with a qualified racehorse wagering operator.
- Adds provisions authorizing a truck stop already qualified to offer video poker to have a Class A-General retail permit operating as a sports wagering lounge which sells food.
Controversy attached to Louisiana sports betting legislation
On Monday, The Advocate, a newspaper in Baton Rouge, made allegations that Senate President Cortez acted improperly for a former legislative colleague turned lobbyist.
For sports betting, the allegation centers around allowing participation of the Louisiana Lottery Corporation. The newspaper implies that Cortez was doing a favor for his friend Joel Robideaux, who spent 11 years in the Louisiana legislature. Robideaux now works as a lobbyist for Intralot.
Under H 697, potentially thousands of bars and restaurants with liquor licenses in the state could get sports betting kiosks through the lottery. The Louisiana Lottery also gets to offer a mobile sports betting app.
Through its current contract with the Lottery Corp, Intralot has first dibs to provide those sports betting kiosks.
The controversy shouldn’t affect the passage of S 247. The lottery language is in H 697, already signed by the governor.
Stefanski previously explained to PlayLouisiana that the inclusion of the retail element was to help out bars and restaurants hurt by the pandemic, and provide an avenue of participation for Louisianans who don’t want to bet through a mobile app. The House removed participation from other lottery retailers, which would have provided more locations for kiosks.
“Our bars here in Louisiana got hammered by COVID. 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.”