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Louisiana Sports Betting Referendum Given the Green Light

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has given the go-ahead to a referendum that could legalize sports betting in the state. 

Voters will now have the opportunity to vote whether or not they want their parish to regulate the vertical on their ballot for this year’s election. 

Once the results of the referendum come through, regulators would draft up tax and operating laws at some stage next year. 

SB130, introduced by Senator Cameron J Henry, had already passed through the Louisiana House of Representatives and Senate last month

In the voters’ hands 

The referendum for sports betting in Louisiana will be added to each voters’ ballot for the upcoming November 3rd election. Parishes that vote in favor of the vertical will have sports betting introduced in due course, while it will remain illegal in those that are against it. 

SB130, which has now become Act 215 after being passed into law, will ask voters the following question. 

“Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish? Yes or no”. 

Even if parishes vote in favor of sports betting, regulations cannot be introduced until 2021

Sports betting in Louisiana will not be allowed to fully launch until laws related to tax, licensing fees and general regulations are both concepted and passed. This cannot happen during an even-numbered (non-fiscal) year, which is why regulators will have to wait until 2021. 

In the past, this has been detrimental to the introduction of legislation in the Creole State. For example, 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes voted in favor of regulating and taxing daily fantasy sports (DFS) back in 2018. However, legislation never officially went into law. This was due to Senator Daniel Martiny filibustering the bill, as a result of his sports betting bill not being included in the DFS proposal. 

DFS could be about to seize its second chance 

Despite the ongoings that took place three years ago, DFS could be about to make its long-awaited entry into the southern US state. At the beginning of this month, related legislation was approved by the Senate. 

Last week, Edwards himself signed off the same bill. And on June 11th, the State House Committee on Ways And Means gave the green light to legislation that outlines tax rates for this vertical. It’s still with the Committee, but is expected to move forward to the House soon. 

Should DFS be officially passed into law, operators will have to pay 8% of their gross gaming revenue (GGR) in this vertical as tax each year. Moreover, operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings would have to obtain a license from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. 

Will sports betting and DFS provide a boost for the economy of Louisiana?

Louisiana, like much of the US, has been gripped in 2020 by the spread of COVID-19. Businesses were forced to shut down in March, and casinos weren’t spared from these measures. 

The American Gaming Association (AGA) released a report last month underlining the importance of land-based casinos to the state’s economy. It was titled ‘Casinos & Communities: Louisiana’.

There are 25 commercial and tribal casinos in Louisiana, which combined bring $1.5 billion to the state in taxes each year. They are also an important employer, with $1.7 billion in staff wages being paid annually and 41,000 jobs in total. 

According to the AGA’s report, the lack of wagering between March and May could have cost Louisiana’s gambling industry over $1 billion in economic activity. The industry will also need to play a key role in post-coronavirus recovery, according to the AGA, as it did with previous disasters like Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Last month, the state became one of the first to reopen its wagering venues following the lockdown. Casinos have been allowed to welcome back customers since May 18th, but only if they meet the safety requirements that have been outlined. 

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