While state legislatures across the country seem to be sitting back on considering legal sports wagering, Louisiana lawmakers are moving full steam ahead. On Thursday, the Senate passed the second of two sports betting bills in two days.
SB 378 is now headed to the House for approval after passing with a 23-9 vote and no discussion.
On Wednesday afternoon, SB 130 passed the Senate, 29-8. That bill sends sports betting to the voters, who will decide on a parish-by-parish basis whether or not to legalize, and includes the wording for a November referendum.
SB 378 is a companion bill that lays out a framework, and though Senate sponsor Ronnie Johns told his colleagues it is “verbatim of yesterday’s bill,” it is not. Johns went on to say that he was offering this bill in case SB 130 gets “clogged up” during the legislative process.
Setting tax rate tricky in Louisiana
The referendum language is the same, but the bill is nine pages longer and goes into more detail. SB 378 would allow for retail sports betting at the state’s riverboat casinos, the Harrah’s land-based casino in New Orleans, and at horse racetracks around Louisiana. There is no provision for statewide mobile wagering, but on-site mobile is contemplated in the bill.
The bill would allow for sports betting via kiosks or at teller windows, would make the Louisiana Gaming Control Board the regulator, and would allow sports betting on all college, professional, and Olympic sports. eSports are not included in the bill.
I live 100 miles from Shreveport, so I’m hopeful Louisiana will grant more licenses rather than fewer and create a business climate that is attractive to operators like Circa, SouthPoint & Westgate. A state getting sports betting doesn’t mean they’re going to offer a good product
— Paul Stone (@paulstonesports) May 14, 2020
The biggest challenge for lawmakers in Louisiana is setting a tax rate. Any bill dealing with state finances requires a two-thirds majority to pass, and that’s proven a heavy lift. In 2018, voters said yes to daily fantasy in 47 of 64 parishes, but it’s not yet available because lawmakers haven’t been able to pass the tax portion. During a Senate hearing earlier this month, lawmakers suggested the issue could be resolved during a special summer session.
SB 378 will likely follow SB 130 to the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. HB 357, identical to SB 130, is already in that committee.
Mississippi also left out statewide mobile betting
When it comes to gaming, Louisiana’s biggest competition is neighboring Mississippi, which was among the first few states to offer live sports betting in 2018 after the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. In Mississippi, usage of mobile sports betting apps are permitted — but only on casino premises. The state legislature briefly considered allowing statewide mobile during the 2020 session, but it never got to a vote.
To the north, neighboring Arkansas legalized sports betting via referendum in 2018 and will ultimately offer retail sports betting at four locations. Louisiana’s western neighbor, Texas, isn’t considering sports betting.
Louisiana’s state legislature began its session on March 9 and then took a COVID-19 hiatus before reconvening on March 31. It is set to adjourn on June 10.