In Baton Rouge this week, Louisiana legislators had a hearing to look deeper into regulated sports betting. The state had several proposed bills this year but none were passed; this latest hearing was to help them get ahead of the issue before the next legislative session starts.
No official testimony was given at the hearing for the Senate panel; rather, it was an informal chat about how they can keep Louisiana ahead of the sports betting curve. As of right now, only Nevada and five other states have operating sportsbooks.
In an article from US Bets, Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones spoke about the purpose of this panel,
“It’s important to start the discussion ahead of the session. The more information we can get into the record and talk about in advance is good from a public policy standpoint.”
The Board has remained neutral to the whole concept of sports betting legalization. He went on to say,
“There’s been a lot of discussion on whether we want to expand gambling to sports. Well, I’ve got news for everybody: People are betting on sports today. If you would Google, on your desktops, ‘how can I place a bet in Louisiana,’ 15 to 20 sites will pop up. None are licensed in Louisiana, none are located in Louisiana, but they are happy to take your money in an uncontrolled and unregulated environment. Nobody is protected that way. It’s absolutely not taxed here, and you’re not guaranteed to get your winnings from offshore.”
Besides Louisiana bettors going to illegal bookies and offshore gambling sites, there are also concerns that Mississippi is ahead of the game; that state launched legal sports betting on August 1st.
At the Senate panel meeting, Allen Godfrey, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission made some comments. He talked about how his state started with efforts to regulate daily fantasy sports, and followed New Jersey’s example for sports betting.
Legislators in Louisiana know that sports betting isn’t a hugely lucrative business, but some revenue from the activity is better than none, which is how it is now. Illegal bookies and offshore betting sites are benefitting. As for illegal betting, Jones said “there is a huge illegal market out there.”
This isn’t the first time the Magnolia State has gone up against the black market. In the early ‘90s, Louisiana regulated video poker gambling, which pulled people back to the legal market.
Godfrey went on to discuss black market sports gambling:
“You’ll never get rid of the black market because there’s no tax reporting, it’s anonymous, and sometimes you don’t want to be seen in a certain place. There’s no paper trail and I think that’s the popularity. There’s just a culture and tradition of people calling someone that their grandfather or father has used.”
He hopes that once the culture accepts sports betting as a legitimate activity, it could change the way people view illegal betting. He cautioned the panel, however, and said that sports betting needs to be convenient for bettors in order to pull them from black market betting into the legitimate sports gambling market.
As mentioned, the purpose of this panel was to begin discussions on sports betting and to look at how the sports betting landscape has changed throughout the country. There are State Senators who feel that the rest of the country, and the world, will end up far ahead of Louisiana if the state doesn’t get going with legalized sports betting sooner than later.
The goal is to get a bill drafted and passed in the next legislative session which runs from April 8th through June 6th. State Senator Danny Martiny has already gone on record saying that he will have a bill ready for the session. Not only does he want the state to get in on the action, but he also wants Louisiana to keep up with its neighbor – Mississippi.
The biggest reason why State leaders are pushing for sports betting is the potential amount of revenue that the state could earn. The American Gaming Association believes that Louisiana could generate up to $288 million dollars a year and that the state could earn $50 to $60 million in taxes.
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