The 2019 session of the Louisiana Legislature began on April 8. Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) has pre-filed a bill which would authorize sports betting on a parish-by-parish basis in the same way that daily fantasy sports (DFS) was legalized last year.
Even though the Louisiana Senate Judiciary B Committee was the only place in the Louisiana Legislature where sports wagering received a positive vote in 2018, things may be different this year.
Why? First of all, the US Supreme Court opened the door when it struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, and now sports wagering is sweeping the country. And Louisiana already has legal casino gaming in the state. In fact, in 2018 Louisiana authorized DFS, and the voters in local referenda approved DFS in 47 of the state’s 64 parishes. So we know the Louisiana population is open to legal sports betting options.
But there is another, perhaps more important reason a sports wagering bill may pass this year. Louisiana’s neighboring state of Mississippi now offers legalized sports wagering, and while there is little hard data to support the notion that legal sports wagering in Mississippi is diverting traditional Louisiana casino customers to Mississippi, the anecdotal information and the general feeling in the gaming industry indicate that the casinos in South Mississippi are gaining customers from Louisiana who wish to make legal bets in the Mississippi sports books. Thus, legalizing sports wagering in Louisiana may be seen by Louisiana legislators, regulators, and casinos as a defensive measure to keep those gaming dollars at home.
Even if the Louisiana Legislature approves sports wagering this year, a statewide voter referendum will be required. Such a vote would probably take place on October 12, the same date as elections for Louisiana statewide and legislative offices. The referendum requirement will delay legal sports betting in Louisiana until at least 2020.
The Louisiana regulators will need time to promulgate sports betting regulations and investigate providers of sports wagering services. The taxation of sports betting will be the subject of separate legislation, and a tax rate of 12 percent, the same as in Mississippi, is anticipated.
The American Gaming Association has estimated that annual revenue from Louisiana sports wagering, or “handle,” might be as high as $288 million. Net revenues from that activity would of course be less, and gross gaming tax revenues to the state might not be significant (if the Mississippi experience is any guide).
However, adding the sports betting amenity to existing casinos, racetracks, and off-track betting facilities in Louisiana could help stem the flow of sports wagering gamblers from that state to Mississippi.
Those companies interested in sports wagering in Louisiana should closely monitor developments in the Louisiana Legislature this year.