This year, voters in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved sports betting, covering around 95% of the total population of the state. The next steps are probably not going to be as definitive.
Gaming of any form remains controversial in the state legislature, despite the overwhelming support of voters. Voters passed a daily fantasy sports legalization ballot measure by similar margins in 2018. However, the required follow-up tax legislation was not approved by lawmakers until 2020, and only as part of a special session called to resolve the pandemic.
Michael D. Noel, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said legal sports betting is not expected to take place in the state before 2022. He added that the first step is for lawmakers to decide this spring how to roll out legal sports wagering, Legislature has to layout the framework, and then the rule-making process has to be a four-to-six-month period. Once that happens, sportsbooks and casinos would have to apply and get licensed in the state.
Casinos are getting ready, even without legal betting happening soon. Baton Rouge’s L’Auberge Casino and Hotel, which owns Penn National Gaming in the capital region and has four other properties in the state, are also preparing to create a sportsbook.
“The resort views a sportsbook as a place where customers can come, place their wagers, watch games, enjoy some food, and relax, and we are going to construct a whole new section for that,” Kim Ginn, general manager of L’Auberge in Baton Rouge said.
She admitted, however, that the governmental process would take time. She further stated that the legislative process would begin in April next year, and once it is made into law, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, which regulates them, would make laws about sportsbooks.
Next Steps For Sports Betting In Louisiana
In the past two legislative sessions, owing partly to a contingent of conservative legislators opposed to any new gambling proposals and partly over which organizations would be permitted to accept wagers, substantive sports betting legislation failed.
In 2018, a daily fantasy initiative that allowed players to join the DFS contests in the state was approved by voters in 47 of 64 Louisiana parishes. Yet the aforementioned political headwinds helped delay passing the required follow-up implementation legislation for two years.
At bars and truck stops across the state, Louisiana has thousands of online video poker terminals. A controversial move that helped both the DFS and sports betting legislation in 2019, some lawmakers pushed legislation that would allow these terminals to embrace daily fantasy lineups. When legislators take up follow-up sports betting legislation in 2021, which could jeopardize sports betting once more, video terminal supporters could press for a similar bill.
It may also be controversial for online access. Mobile betting covers as much as 90% of online betting management in developed markets. But it is less palatable for gaming-skeptical legislators who could accept a retail sportsbook in an existing casino but would reject mobile betting.
Louisiana would also take on the first online market if mobile betting is accepted, where some parishes will have mobile betting, but others would not. Geo-fencing technology is sophisticated enough to fence off parishes that have resisted sports betting. But it presents another aspect that will have to be discussed by politicians, regulators, and operators before wagering can begin.
All of these are top of the major problems facing the new sports betting market in the state, including the number of licenses available, tax rates, eligible betting events, and a host of other problems. These logistical barriers, and the beginning of Louisiana’s 2021 legislative session in April, mean that sports betting is not likely to start in any parish until 2022 at best.
Sports Betting Measure Has Gained Support State Wide
In the large parishes where Louisiana’s major cities are located, the sports betting measure passed by broad margins. In the southern part of the state, these cities include New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lake Charles, and in the northwestern corner, Shreveport.
North-central Louisiana is home to most of the nine parishes which voted against the ballot measure.
In Calcasieu Parish, which extends to the Texas border in southwestern Louisiana, there is Lake Charles. Sports betting was perceived as a possible boost to the four casinos in the area, as two deadly hurricanes recently clobbered the region only six weeks apart damaged the Lake Charles area casinos.
In Calcasieu Parish, the sports betting measure was supported by 61 percent of voters.