Support from both sides of the aisle is growing in Louisiana to expand its gambling laws to include sports betting, but there are still plenty of issues to resolve before the first legal sports bet is placed inside its borders. With the state’s next legislation session to begin on April 8th, sports betting could be at the top of the list for Louisiana’s state leaders.
Last year’s sports betting bill that would have put the choice to voters to legalize sports gambling didn’t make it, and some legislators are wondering if they’re in for more of the same this year. Senator Ronnie Johns (R-Lake Charles), who is Vice Chairman of the Senate Judiciary B Committee, said that he’s expecting they’ll be debating it again in April.
Last week there was a National Council of Gaming State Legislators meeting in New Orleans at Harrah’s. The meeting focused mainly on sports wagering. Representatives from all stakeholders attended, including people from the pro sports leagues, casino bigwigs, and others all had the opportunity to talk about their views.
As for how much revenue the state could see from legal sports betting, neither Edwards nor Johns could foresee a “major windfall.”
The American Gaming Association has indicated that Louisiana betting facilities could see between $245 million and $288 million a year. With the current tax rate set for gambling, Louisiana would receive between $52.7 million to $62 million every year in tax revenue from the activity.
Supporters actually think the economic impact could be more dramatic because Mississippi casinos have seen an increase in other revenue sources since they legalized sports betting. The neighboring state has enjoyed an uptick in things like restaurant and bar tabs, charges for other amenities, and hotel stays.
Senator Johns acknowledged that the state is losing business to its neighbors:
“I think it’s something that we need to do and not for the sake of expanding gaming in Louisiana. It’s basically to insulate our current businesses. We know we are starting to lose business to Mississippi.”
The Bayou State and its visitors and residence are already missing out on a big opportunity this year to generate sports betting revenue: NFL playoffs, NCAA March Madness, and the NBA playoffs will all be over with before Louisiana passes legislation.
This is the busiest time of the year for sports wagering as the Super Bowl and March Madness are two of the most wagered on events all year long. Even if Louisiana fast-tracked the legalization of sports betting, it’s very possible that the state could miss out on some of those busy seasons in 2020, too.
In May last year the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, the federal law that banned sports betting outside of a few exceptions, including Nevada. The Justices ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was unconstitutional, which then left the decision up to each state whether or not to legalize sports gambling.
Several states, at least seven so far, have passed laws to legalize sports betting, and a handful have already started running sportsbook operations. Nearby Mississippi has legalized sports wagering, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told a meeting of the press club of Baton Rouge that he is concerned that the casinos in his state have been put at a disadvantage.
Edwards faces re-election this year. He hasn’t discussed in any detail what he expects from legislators.
“There are many different ways that sports betting can be undertaken. We’re trying to figure out what works for Louisiana.”
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