The bets have yet to come in Louisiana. But sports wagering providers are lining up to get in on the action.
Thirteen casinos have now applied to offer the service in the state, up from a recently announced total of eight. Among the baker’s dozen include Margaritaville Resort Casino, Horseshoe Bossier City and Boomtown, all in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.
With 20 of Louisiana’s casinos eligible to apply, that leaves seven remaining that also expect to request sports betting licenses by the Jan. 1 deadline. The seven remaining are expected to do so by the January 1 deadline.
However, two of those properties are not currently operational. One, a Lake Charles riverboat casino damaged by 2020’s Hurricane Laura, will likely open next year as a Caesars Horseshoe land-based casino. The other, Diamond Jacks Casino in Bossier City, has closed. Its owner, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, hopes to transfer that license to Slidell, a matter that a December referendum will decide.
Operators lining up to offer Louisiana sports betting
Applications are coming in while eager bettors still wait for an official start date for sports betting on non-tribal lands in the Pelican State.
While Paragon Casino Resort has already opened a Betfred retail sportsbook, it did so under tribal oversight. Commercial wagering, including mobile betting apps in Louisiana, still await the green light from state regulators.
Ronnie Johns, new chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, retains the power to sign temporary certificates of operation for non-tribal casinos. Such a certificate immediately lets a casino begin offering in-person wagering.
However, Johns has said:
“It’s possible, but I seriously doubt I’ll have any to sign in the next two weeks.”
Johns said, though, that he anticipates licensing recommendations from the Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division “very soon.”
What’s taking LA sports betting so long to launch?
The police are charged with double-checking the original vetting of casino applicants, both the properties and their executives. All must show suitability and financial stability. The state police also have to verify that sports betting operators employ proper geofencing technology to exclude parishes that did not approve regulated wagering.
In addition, involved casinos must each build out a special limited-access area for event wagering. Likely, though, some properties will set up temporary sportsbooks until they complete more elaborate lounges.
Of course, Hurricane Ida delayed the vetting process, as the police needed to manage recovery efforts. Now double-checking has begun again but takes some time — although not as much as the original vetting procedure.
Still, Major Chuck McNeal noted they’ve tried to “streamline it” and are “just making sure nothing has changed.”
Future of Louisiana sports betting and its benefits
The top question Johns has received: “When are we going to start sports betting?”
Fifty-five parishes in Louisiana that voted for sports betting in November 2020 are waiting for the answer. Optimism surrounded a potential launch in time for the 2021 NFL season. But a pandemic, a resignation and a hurricane pushed it back on the calendar. And once on-site sports wagering rolls out, the vetting process for mobile wagering will begin. Johns hopes that will take just a couple of months.
Also, the Louisiana Lottery — already authorized to oversee sports wagering kiosks in bars and restaurants serving alcohol —should swing into sports betting action once the pertinent rules are set in January or after. The lottery is also permitted to launch a mobile betting app.
Each of the 20 casinos that receive sports betting licenses will be able to team up with two sports betting operators. Including the single app from the lottery, that will mean 41 mobile betting options for Louisiana bettors could offer regulated wagering in the Pelican State.
Gambling contributes in a big way to the state’s economy and general fund, just third behind sales and income taxes. Current estimates predict tax revenue coming into Louisiana via sports betting at $25 million annually. Primary licensees will pay the taxes.