May 27, 2024 3 min read

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Backlash Forces Louisiana Senator to Withdraw Casino Contribution Amendment

Initially, Sen. Pressly introduced a bill that aimed to eliminate the ban on casino campaign contributions without any public debate

After previously trying to remove the existing legislative prohibition that prevented casinos within Louisiana from making political contributions, Sen. Thomas Pressly from the 38th district has made a U-turn. 

Sen. Pressly’s Attempt to End Casino Donation Ban Sparks Backlash

Initially, Sen. Pressly submitted a finance bill (HB 906) that would have removed the prohibition on casino campaign subsidies without any public discussion. The amendment was meant to correct what he termed as an unjust restriction. Noting that while the video poker industry could make political contributions, their counterparts dealing with casinos were not. 

He further contended that it was high time this rule got scrapped since it infringed on the Constitution and was outdated. He also pointed to the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which removed limits on corporate expenditure within politics.

Nevertheless, Pressly received heavy criticism after the matter was reported by local media outlet NOLA.com, which revealed that the amendment had been inserted without prior notice or public conversation. 

In response to the public scrutiny and criticism, Pressly asked for the removal of the amendment on May 23. Following this, the Senate passed the revised bill by a wide margin – 29-5 – and sent it back to the House for final approval.

Former Regulator Defends Casino Contribution Ban Amid Historical Scandals

It was in 1996 when the legislative prohibition of casinos making campaign contributions first became law as a reaction to corruption scandals surrounding former Gov. Edwin Edwards. In exchange for legalizing gambling in Louisiana, Edwards extorted nearly $3 million from companies applying for casino licenses. These incidents brought disgrace to Louisiana and led to a strict ban even on casino owners and their wives among other things.

A Louisiana Supreme Court ruling in 2002 upheld the prohibition and recognized that there was a difference between video poker and casino licenses. The court found that allowing casinos to make financial contributions within certain limits was one way of reasonably avoiding corruption.

Ronnie Jones, who is an ex-chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board did not support lifting the ban. He talked about his experience in fighting a negative image of gambling brought by Edward’s era and mentioned that gaming interests should never be mixed up with political donations. He stated that lawmakers should ensure that the industry will not try to buy votes.  

Still, a Penn Entertainment spokesperson for public affairs and government relations Jeff Morris argued that the current law puts Louisiana casinos at a disadvantage compared to other gaming stakeholders who are allowed to make campaign contributions.

Author

Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

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