Louisiana Sports Gambling Hits a Wrinkle Ahead of Planned Launch

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Louisiana’s efforts to legalize sports gambling are approaching the finish line, but have stumbled in the last stretch. Everything is in place to welcome what is expected to be one of the more robust markets in the US; however, there’s one thing now standing in the way. Louisiana doesn’t have anyone to chair the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) and, without someone at the helm, there’s no one to steer the ship. Fortunately, state leaders are already working to rectify the problem, according to USA Today Network.

Louisiana Gambling Needs a Leader

Mike Noel served as the LGCB chair for about a year when his past came back to haunt him. He resigned on June 9, after having been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards in June of last year, in order to sidestep a Senate confirmation hearing for the position that could have raised questions about his role in the fatal arrest of a Black man when he was a Lieutenant Colonel with the Louisiana State Police (LSP). While Noel wasn’t directly involved in the incident, he was serving as the LSP’s Assistant Superintendent and Chief of Staff, and, as such, could have had his credibility shaken.

Now, with Louisiana’s sports gambling legislation signed into law a week ago, the state is in a holding pattern as it figures out how to fill the void left by Noel’s departure. Without a LGCB chair, there’s no one to sign off on the rules the board might put together. Without approved rules, there’s no way to move the sports gambling initiative forward. The legislation approving sports gambling specifically includes caveats that give the LGCB control over the implementation of policies and procedures.

Only a Minor Wrinkle

Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez, who was one of the main sponsors of sports gambling legislation in the state, told USA Today Network that the absence of the chair is only a “little bit of a hiccup. A replacement is already being sought, and Governor Edwards’ spokesperson, Christina Stephen, added that the governor expects to be able to make a choice “sooner rather than later.” One name has already surfaced as a potential candidate, Ronnie Johns, a Senator from Lake Charles who has confirmed that he has spoken to Governor Edwards about the job.

Louisiana had hoped to have its sports gambling market running ahead of the upcoming NFL season, set to get underway in September. That is still possible, although lawmakers are less optimistic than before, and the state is definitely hoping to make an appointment as soon as possible. 20 licenses are to be awarded, each able to include two online skins, and forecasts have indicated that the market could produce as much as $20 million a year for the state through tax revenue. That is in addition to the application and license fees, which will give Louisiana an immediate, multimillion-dollar injection of funds.  

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