Louisiana Ready to Put Together Sports Gambling Framework

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Louisiana took its first step forward with legalized sports gambling when state voters approved a ballot measure authorizing the activity last year. That was only a small step, however, and much more work is needed. As the Louisiana Legislation resumes today, one of the topics is almost certainly going to be sports gambling, with several bills ready to be discussed. Louisiana’s casinos took a massive hit last year because of COVID-19 and uncooperative weather, and sports gambling is viewed as a way to help offset the over $900 million in revenue losses the gambling properties endured.

Louisiana Bars Might Get Books

Louisiana lawmakers are going to be presented with several sports gambling bills as they reconvene today. Ronnie Jones, the former chair of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB), spoke during EGR’s “A Spotlight on Southern States” gambling seminar last week, explaining some of what’s coming and what obstacles lie ahead. He explained that one bill, Senate Bill 202 (SB 202), takes a broad approach and would allow mobile sports gambling and would authorize certain bars and restaurants to include sportsbooks.

SB 202 was prepared by Senator President Patrick Page Cortes. Given his position, any bill he introduces is likely to generate a significant amount of support, but Jones acknowledges that any sports gambling bill is going to face a difficult road toward acceptance. He said of Cortes’ bill, “I just don’t know what the finished product is going to look like.” There’s not a great deal of time to figure things out either, as the current legislative session ends on June 10.

Louisiana Sports Gambling a Contentious Subject

Jones believes that a more sensible approach to introducing sports gambling to Louisiana would be to start small and build out from there. This, he asserts, would give the state the ability to overcome some of the challenges that are going to be faced when attempting to legalize sports gambling. The longtime gambling industry executive feels that the best alternative is to “go conservative and then expand more later.”

When Louisiana parishes approved the sports gambling ballot measure, not everyone was on board. The state’s parishes were given the ability to determine whether they individually wanted sports gambling and not all of them are enthusiastic. Of the state’s 64 parishes, 56 said yes, but the others voted against the measure. This is likely to require, once the final sports gambling legislation is approved, the introduction of geofencing technology if mobile sportsbooks are allowed.

As the sports gambling framework is prepared, its foundation is already in place. The state’s four racetracks, Harrah’s in New Orleans and the 15 riverboat casinos still in operation would be given first access to a sports gambling license. If any decides to turn it down, a competitive bidding process would be held to issue that license. After Louisiana’s sports gambling market is greenlighted, it is expected that up to 20 sportsbooks will be in operation.

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