Louisiana lawmakers continue to move forward a package of bills that will create the framework, including tax rate, for legal sports betting, which voters there approved on the November 2020 ballot. The proposed framework allows for statewide mobile wagering and 20 retail and mobile sports betting operator licenses.
The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice moved forward SB 247 on a voice vote Tuesday morning. After the vote, bill sponsor Sen. Patrick Page Cortez set a goal for the launch of legal sportsbooks.
“Our hope is that sports betting will be available sometime by the end of football season,” he said. “But we don’t know that for sure.”
SB 247 has an emergency clause in it that would allow the regulator to start the rule-making and application process as soon as the bill becomes law. The bill is the second key piece of legislation to head to a chamber floor in a week. On Monday, lawmakers handled some administrative details when the Speaker of the House and the Senate President signed HB 697, which can now be sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards for signature. The bill passed the House on May 10 and the Senate on May 20.
HB 247 will head to the House floor for final approval before being sent to Edwards. Together, the bills allow for statewide mobile wagering with two skins, or digital partners, per brick-and-mortar location. The land-based Harrah’s casino, riverboat casinos, and horse-racing tracks are eligible for licenses. The Louisiana legislature is set to adjourn on June 10.
Lottery will have skin in the game
The Louisiana Lottery Corporation will also have a mobile platform following a House amendment last week, though the Louisiana Gaming Control Board will be the regulator. The bills would allow for restaurants and bars to get retail sports wagering licenses.
The latest version of the bills lowers the tax rate on revenue generated from digital sports bets from 18% to 15%. The tax rate would be 10% for in-person wagering, and proceeds from sports betting will be tagged for early childhood education. The bill handling that, SB 142, is still in the Senate.
Directing the revenue from sports betting into the Early Childhood Education Fund will not only provide our state with an ongoing source of revenue to expand access to quality ECE, but also incentivize local entities to come to the table with a $ to $ match. #InvestinECE pic.twitter.com/gXGntYL3Sa
— LA Policy Institute (@PolicyInstLA) May 18, 2021
The application fee for retail sports wagering licenses stands at $250,000 with a $500,000, five-year renewal, and the fee for digital wagering licenses at $100,000 with a five-year $250,000 renewal.
With just under three weeks remaining in the legislative session, the bills appear poised to become law, making Louisiana the last of the four states where voters approved sports betting via referendum to send a framework to its governor.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has a framework for expanded gaming, including sports betting, sitting on his desk. That bill must be signed or vetoed by Wednesday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed that state’s framework bill on May 18. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill in her state on March 18, and the state regulator there is already in the rule-making process.
No sports betting in nine parishes
Prior to voter approval last November, Louisiana lawmakers had been trying for three years to legalize sports betting. Voters in 55 of 64 parishes approved it on the ballot, meaning that the phrase “statewide mobile” is a bit of a misnomer — the nine parishes that did not approve (most of which are grouped together in the middle of the state) will be geofenced and neither retail nor digital sports betting will be available.
It was unclear from the referendum whether or not mobile would be available, but lawmakers earlier this year chose to include it in their framework bills. Should the package of bills pass as they are currently written, Louisiana would be the first state in its region to allow for digital platforms across the state. While neighboring Mississippi launched operators on Aug. 1, 2018, just three months after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down, lawmakers there have failed to add a statewide digital component.
Sports gambling in Texas: Will lawmakers roll the dice? on https://t.co/WQoNk25Zeo #greengroundit
We spoke with UTSA Professor Jennifer Alexander to see if sports betting could be a help in Texas. “I think that state and local governments are in far …
— Livio Andrea Acerbo (@AcerboLivio) May 18, 2021
Northern neighbor Arkansas allows for limited retail sports betting, and Texas lawmakers have not legalized, though there are multiple bills circulating in Austin. The session there ends on May 31, and it appears unlikely that sports betting will be legalized ahead of that.
Should the Louisiana legislature OK sports betting, Edwards would have to provide his signature before regulators develop rules and create an application process. That process can take as few as three months, as it did in Indiana and Iowa in 2019, or more than a year as it did in Tennessee and Washington, D.C.