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Louisiana Sports Betting Referendum Moves Closer to Fruition

A parish-by-parish Louisiana sports betting referendum is another step closer to reality after the state’s House of Representatives passed a related bill. 

Senator Cameron Henry’s bill, titled SB130, passed without amendments and by a margin of 71-24 in favor.

Because there were no amendments, the bill will go back to the Senate – but just to be enrolled, rather than voted on (again). 

After this, the legislation will be moved onto the Governor’s desk – with a referendum taking place later this year if all goes well. 

Some parts of Louisiana may legalize sports betting, but others might not 

If a parish-by-parish referendum is held, only jurisdictions that vote in favor of sports betting will have the vertical legalized. It will remain illegal in those that choose to cross the ‘no’ option instead. 

The option to choose whether or not one wishes to see the vertical regulated will appear on the ballot for this fall’s General Election. This is scheduled to take place on November 3rd, 2020. 

For the jurisdictions that choose to welcome sports betting with open arms, state lawmakers would set out a number of guidelines next year. This would be in collaboration with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. 

Issues that would be worked on include licensing, taxes for operators and the regulation of betting. 

It would be impossible to introduce legalized sports betting prior to 2021, due to the inability to implement a tax rate before then. Unless the Governor calls a fiscal session, fiscal matters are only discussed in odd-numbered years. 

Parish-by-Parish an ideal option, according to Henry 

Henry spoke about the possibility of a November referendum, and felt that it would be easier to regulate within different regions – as opposed to the whole state. 

He said the following. 

“I know sports wagering is a difficult issue for a lot of members.

“This way you’ll be able to know [after the November election] exactly what your constituents want you to do.”

Will Louisiana strike lucky with sports betting this time?

The Sugar State has attempted to bring forms of sports-related wagering activities within its borders in the past. Ironically, the lack of an inclusion for sports betting is the reason that efforts fell short.

In 2018, 47 out of 64 parishes voted to regulate and tax daily fantasy sports. However, the bill was filibustered by Sen. Senator Daniel Martiny. This was due to sponsor Sen. Kirk Talbot refusing to include Martiny’s sports betting bill in his proposal. 

Other sports betting bills were introduced at the beginning of this legislative session. One of those, HB357, received a 72-23 vote in favour last week but fell short due to not receiving the Senate’s approval. This was proposed by House Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner McGee.

Minus a small technical amendment, the legislation was identical to the one put forward by Henry. 

In total, five sports betting bills were proposed at the beginning of this year’s legislative session. 

Supporters of legalized sports betting in Louisiana argue that players are already wagering within the vertical. So, in their eyes, it might as well be taxed and earn the state some additional revenue. 

On the flip side, opponents argue that opening up the gaming market further could lead to problem gambling issues increasing. With this in mind, there would be additional costs for taxpayers and the benefits would thus be voided. 

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