Almost since the day that Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans took the state’s first in-person sports wager — and remember, that was Halloween — the question swirling around Louisiana has been this: When will digital sports betting launch?
And the answer is still a mystery.
Despite rumors last week that suggested this could be the week, Ronnie Johns, the chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, told Louisiana Radio Network that just ain’t so.
“I wish I [could] give you a definitive date right now, but I can assure the day the recommendation comes to my desk from state police, I will be signing it and we will be going live, and I hope that it’s very, very soon,” Johns told the news outlet last Thursday.
Johns was even more clear when he told the News-Star, “There is some misinformation that we’re going to launch sports betting next week in conjunction with the NFL playoffs. While we very much would like to do that, it’s definitely not accurate. We are working literally on a daily basis to finalize all of the compliance issues and the technical issues with sports betting.”
Johns did not respond to an inquiry from Sports Handle, but the goal for several months has been for mobile betting to be available by the Feb. 13 Super Bowl.
The target date for mobile sports betting in Louisiana has been Jan. 15. I’m told that date has been pushed back. The latest we’ll have mobile betting in the state is by Super Bowl week. Though, the goal is to have it before that date.
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) January 10, 2022
Regulator won’t be rushed
Operators are preparing pre-launch offers and, presumably, getting anxious as the first of 2022’s biggest sporting events came to a stunning close Monday night. The national college football championship draws high interest in the South, where college football reigns. And with Alabama trying for its 16th national championship (the Crimson Tide wound up losing to SEC rival Georgia), it was likely a disappointment that mobile platforms were not live.
But Johns says he won’t be swayed — not by the national championship, the Super Bowl, March Madness, or anything that keeps his department or the state police, which vets potential applicants, from getting things right.
“Louisiana State Police Gaming is working overtime to get it compliant [and] to get it working it correctly. Look, we want this as soon as possible,” he told Louisiana Radio Network.
It’s probably fair to say that sports betting doesn’t ever debut fast enough for stakeholders or bettors, but the reality is that taking a platform live requires a laundry list of checks, controls, paperwork, and more. All those administrative pieces take time and can be derailed by unexpected issues. After all, Louisiana’s retail launch was delayed by Hurricane Ida late last summer, as the state police suspended any work on sports betting for a couple of weeks to deal with the storm’s aftermath.
@LAStatePolice Does anyone know the actual go live date for Louisiana Sports Betting? This is ridiculous
— Darryl (@Nawlins48) January 7, 2022
When wagering does go live in Louisiana, it will do so in most, but not all, of the state. When voters legalized sports betting in November 2020, those in nine parishes in the middle of the state declined to do so, meaning they must be geofenced to prohibit wagering.
A handful of major operators already have some sort of foothold in the state. Penn National, which will operate its Barstool Sportsbook in Louisiana, has five retail locations, while Boyd Gaming, which offers sports betting through a partnership with FanDuel, also has five brick-and-mortar locations. Caesars has four physical casinos, including the only land-based casino in the state near New Orleans’ French Quarter.
DraftKings, Golden Nugget, and TwinSpires all also have market access. Every licensed retail sportsbook is entitled to two digital skins, so it’s likely that, going forward, other major operators — think BetMGM, BetRivers, or PointsBet — could eventually have platforms.
Under the new law, digital platforms must be tethered to brick-and-mortar locations, which include casinos and horse racetracks. The state lottery will also be entitled to a skin.