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Push for Legal Sports Betting in Louisiana Heads to Senate

Louisiana is in the process of having two bills being pushed through to have legal sports betting. Sen. Cameron Henry endorses one of the Louisiana sports betting bills offered in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without much of a time window to decide on the implementation language or the ability to impose taxes and fees this year, a referendum is appearing to be the most constructive process to begin moving forward with sports betting in Louisiana. They are looking to try this out as a test run to see if residents approve of the bill.

Short Timing An Issue

The session to begin the process happened on March 9. Just roughly six days later, the coronavirus pandemic canceled the proceedings for the next seven weeks. The legislature was able to return recently, leaving little time before the scheduled adjournment on June 1.

Committee chairpersons received instructions very recently to be able to pare down bills to what is deemed necessary to pass for this year. Sen. Henry believes a voter referendum on Louisiana sports betting fits perfectly under this category.

Four Steps That Would Make It Happen

By late 2021, you could see this process finally taking place for good, but it will be a longer process versus just a few weeks. Here are the steps it would need to take to make it all possible:

  1. Louisiana Legislature has to pass the referendum bill by June 1 to put sports betting questions to voters.
  2. Voters in Louisiana must approve sports betting in most parishes in the next November election.
  3. Legislators and along with the governor, have to agree on the implementation language for the sports betting bill for 2021.
  4. A sports betting revenue bill with tax rate and fees will have to pass the legislature by a two-thirds supermajority for 2021 and then get the governor’s approval.

Urgency For Sports Betting

Sen. Henry has acknowledged the urgency for putting into motion a sports betting referendum for the ballot this year to allow the legislature to pass a tax bill next year. It will be difficult to obtain the necessary two-thirds vote to impose a tax without knowing constituents want it.

Bills that involve taxes have to originate in the House and then can only be introduced in odd years. If Louisiana does not put this issue on the ballot this year, Sen. Henry worries that it would take the state until 2023 to finalize sports betting.

Final Thoughts

The latest attempts to pass a sports betting implementation bill in Louisiana last year had turned into quite a mess. There is little reason for Louisiana to push significantly for an implementation bill this year. It would make more sense just to have the legislature wait until next year to pass a tax bill.

Two authorization bills for sports wagering were replaced in the committee recently. Sen. Ronnie Johns turned his bill into a duplicate of Henry’s referendum bill as a move that was advanced as a backup. Sen. Barrow Peacock substituted legislation to have the ability to remove a casino tax on promotional credit, which was then referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

While there is more work that needs to gather support for sports betting, Sen. Henry still believes that the referendum can be done now and still has hope that this is the best way to get it done for Louisiana residents. To put it simply, they are not asking committee members to support sports wagering, but rather voting for the bill simply means you are asking your constituents if they are in favor of sports wagering.

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