Sports Betting Debate Continues in Louisiana, With No Hope in Sight
For the first time since a Federal law banned legal sports wagering anywhere outside of Nevada, states now have the opportunity to offer sports betting, but Louisiana will not be one of these states, at least not for the near future. It appears that state leaders are unable to determine not only how to go about implementing sports betting, but if they even want to legalize it at all.
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, called PASPA, was overturned on May 14, 2018, after banning legal sports betting for 26 years in all states outside of Nevada. Supreme Court justices ruled that PASPA was unconstitutional, leaving the door open for Congress to enact regulations specific to sports gambling, but if it does not, each state is free to pass legislation on its own.
How PASPA Being Overturned Impacts Louisiana
Lawmakers in Louisiana rejected a sports betting bill during regular session that would have legalized sports gambling pending the SCOTUS decision on PASPA. The Senate Bill 266, was sponsored by Senator Danny Martiny, (R-Metairie), called for a referendum of voters in parishes where casino gambling is permitted. It would have allowed sports betting at 16 potential locations, including riverboats and casinos throughout Louisiana. The bill advanced but was rejected with a 6-3 vote by the State Finance Committee. He then tried to attach the authorization language to a different bill in early May but didn’t make it past the Senate floor because there were arguments that it would allow for the expansion of gambling in Louisiana. Martiny wanted to try again during the third Special Session in June, but Governor Edwards didn’t include it as an option.
Martiny will try again to get a bill passed for sports betting in the spring, but he’s not feeling optimistic overall. He said,
“I think at the very earliest it will be two-and-a-half to three years before we could get it up and running. And even if we do it’s restricted by a limitation of (space) within the casinos.”
During his monthly radio show after the Supreme Court ruling, Governor John Bel Edwards said he will think about supporting legal sports gambling, but he said he didn’t want to include it in the June Special Session because he wanted lawmakers to focus on passing new taxes in order to help the state’s budget crisis.
Gambling supporters in the Pelican State are working to increase support for legalizing sports betting in the state in order to take over Mississippi’s monopoly in the SE United States. Legislators have indicated they are concerned that Louisiana will fall too far behind Mississippi, which started taking legal sports bets last week. There are also concerns regarding Arkansas and Oklahoma passing laws to permit sports betting.
Louisiana is facing a deficit of $648 million dollars in its next fiscal cycle, and experts like former sports executive Arnie Fielkow publicly wonder why the State Finance Committee turned down such a great opportunity to help the state increase its revenue. In an article by WWLTV, Fielkow was quoted:
“Given that and the revenue needs we have in our state, and I think it would be hard pressed not to take a hard look at it.”
One of the members of the State Finance Committee, Republican State Senator Gerald Long, said that extending gambling sends the wrong message. He feels that allowing sports wagering is akin to opening Pandora’s Box on other types of gambling. Arnie Fielkow said of the Supreme Court’s May 14 ruling that overturned the federal ban:
“I think today’s ruling by the Supreme Court opened the box.”
Riverboat Casinos in Louisiana
Louisiana legislature did approve a bill that was signed into law that allows Louisiana’s riverboat casinos to come ashore and expand the amount of gambling space. Chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board Ronnie Jones said on July 30th, that three of the 15 riverboat casinos in the state have shown an interest in moving their operations onshore. He also said that the rules that allow riverboats to move onto land will be ready to go by the end of 2018.
Legal Gambling in Louisiana
People come from all across the south to enjoy Louisiana’s casinos and riverboats. Because almost all forms of gambling are illegal in Texas and Arkansas, Louisiana gets a lot of those residents. To participate in horse track betting or state lottery in the Pelican State a person must be at least 18 years old. To gamble on a video poker machine or in a casino, a person must be at least 21 years of age.
Social gambling is legal, as long as nobody takes a fee from managing the transactions. Charitable gambling where the proceeds go to non-profit organizations is also legal.
Illegal Sports Betting
Americans spend an estimated $150 billion on illegal sports gambling each year. Senator Danny Martiny believes that Louisiana is going to lose out doubly, to illegal gambling and to legal sports books in Mississippi. And, with their gambling money, they’ll also take tourist money to the coast and Beau Rivage and Silver Slipper. He feels that legal sports gambling could bring Louisiana $25 to $40 million a year. If his bill had passed, each parish would be required to approve sports betting in their specific region, in casinos and on riverboats.
Gambling by computer is illegal in Louisiana. This covers anything on the Internet, so it likely prohibits online gambling used on smartphones and tablets, as well.
Sports Betting In Mississippi
Casinos in Tunica and Biloxi started accepting legal sports wagers August 1st, and legislators and gambling advocates couldn’t be happier. For the Southeast region of the United States, Mississippi is the only state where sports betting is legal and more casinos and properties are expecting to offer sports betting before the college and pro football seasons start.
Sports Betting in Nearby States
There are no other states nearby Louisiana that currently allow sports betting, but Oklahoma and South Carolina both have legislation proposed. No bills have yet been introduced in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, or Arkansas. Martiny says he expects Arkansas will eventually legalize sports betting at the Southland Park dog racetrack and Oaklawn Park horse racetrack, and that Oklahoma tribal casinos will follow shortly after that. In an article by The News Star, Martiny said,
“The New Orleans market is going to be severely impacted by Mississippi and the Shreveport market is going to be severely impacted by the Arkansas racetracks and Oklahoma Indian casinos.”
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