For the second time in two years, Louisiana voters will go to the polls with a chance to legalize a form of sports gaming. In 2018, voters in 47 of 64 parishes chose to make daily fantasy legal, and this November, they’ll get a chance to decide if sports betting should be allowed.
The Louisiana House voted 71-24 Wednesday evening to pass SB 130 and send the following referendum to voters:
The ballot for the election shall state as follows:
“PROPOSITION TO AUTHORIZE SPORTS WAGERING ACTIVITIES. Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of _________________?
YES ( ) NO ( )”
The bill moved easily through the Senate and then House since being pre-filed in February. The bill is only three pages long and does nothing other than lay out the referendum language. According to local media reports, the bill still needs Gov. John Bel Edwards’ signature before it can be placed on the ballot.
Gaming Control Board would be regulator
Louisiana now joins Maryland and South Dakota as states that will have ballot initiatives in November. The Maryland referendum is a bare-bones “yes-or-no” question that was rushed through the state legislature as it was shutting down at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In South Dakota, voters will choose whether or not to legalize sports betting in the tourist town of Deadwood only.
A second sports betting bill, SB 378, is on the House agenda for Thursday. That bill includes not only the referendum language but also names the Louisiana Gaming Control Board as the regulator and defines the meaning of sports wagering as “the business of accepting wagers on any sports event or sports contest by any system or method of wagering,” which appears to leave the door open for statewide mobile sports betting.
While the referendum language in both bills is identical, it’s unclear why two bills are needed.
Louisiana voters will now decide parish by parish whether they want Sports Wagering/Betting. The referendum will be on this November's election sheet.
— Tim™ (@timzim1613) May 27, 2020
Since voters approved daily fantasy in November 2018 (in most parishes), lawmakers have been struggling with how to make it available. Wednesday morning, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee took a step in that direction when it stripped HB 357, originally a mirror to SB 130, of any sports betting language. It was amended to allow for the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to issue regulations for daily fantasy sports, which has not yet been done.
According to comments by Rep. Barrow Peacock after the amended version of HB 357 was adopted, taxes for both DFS and sports betting will be handled during a special session later this year.
So far, only two states — Arkansas and Colorado — have legalized sports betting via referendum. In Arkansas, Louisiana’s northern neighbor, voters allowed sports betting at up to four venues across the state in 2018, but no statewide digital sports betting. Last November, Colorado voters narrowly approved statewide mobile and retail sports betting. The first bets were taken on May 1.