With the current delay of Louisiana sports betting, Hurricane Ida is proving to be the tropical storm that just keeps taking.
It took away most of the area’s electricity, casino operations for days and, tragically, 82 lives.
The lights are back on and casinos have reopened. But now the hopes for the start of sports betting in 55 parishes have been taken away — again. Hopefully not for long, though.
“That has been the number one question that I have gotten,” said Ronnie Johns, recently appointed chair of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, according to The Advocate. “When are we going to start sports betting?”
Despite Ida’s delays, eight casinos had applied by Sept. 16 to begin offering regulated wagering in the Pelican State.
Louisiana Sports Betting Waits in the Wings
Originally, then-LGCB Chair Mike Noel talked optimistically about sports betting becoming available in early 2022.
He resigned in June amid controversy. After a two-month vacancy, Gov. Jon Bel Edwards appointed Johns to take the helm of the Board.
With emergency temporary rules decided on by the LGCB in August, it looked like the sports betting kickoff might happen as early as September. Those emergency rules allow sportsbooks to launch on board-approved temporary certificates of authority.
With the best-laid plans now gone awry, ending the delay hinges on the re-vetting of the eight casinos that have applied to offer sports betting under the emergency rules and on a new launch date.
The state has carved out 20 racetracks and casinos in Louisiana that can apply first. These include the land-based Harrah’s New Orleans, 15 riverboat casinos and four racetracks. Those 20 properties as well as their top executives have already been vetted to show suitability and financial stability, something that usually takes quite some time.
Now, approval of the eight casino applicants requires double-checking. But, according to Major Chuck Maclean, command inspector for the Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division, there’s “no reason for us to go through a whole, full-blown background again. Just making sure nothing has changed.”
They tried to “streamline” it, Maclean pointed out. The police were temporarily interrupted in this endeavor because they needed to handle recovery from Ida.
Louisiana State Gaming Enforcement Take Up the Matter Again
Double-checking processes required for offering sports betting is the most time-consuming part. Those processes include security and accounting practices. Plus, approved casinos must build out a special limited-access area for event wagering. Some will set up temporary sportsbooks until they can build expensive and elaborate lounges currently in the planning stages.
The casinos will also be contracting for software and platforms from up to two licensed providers. That will eventually allow mobile sports betting apps in Louisiana to operate in the 55 parishes that approved it in fall 2020. Regulators prefer in-person wagering to happen first, though.
Online vendors will have to go through the licensing process, as well, according to Johns.
Rules of the Road Ahead for Louisiana Sports Betting
On Sept. 16, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approved the permanent regulations that will take the place of August’s emergency rules. Opponents and the public can have their say for a few months before the rules’ final passage, which Assistant Attorney General Dawn Himel expects to go favorably. This process could be over by January.
In August, Johns expressed optimism about sports betting taking off in time for people to wager on the NFL this year. He’s still optimistic regarding Louisiana’s repeatedly delayed sports betting.
“Hopefully we’re going to have some good news very soon.”