The Louisiana legislature began its 2019 session on Monday and, similar to many other states, lawmakers introduced multiple bills that would legalize sports betting within the state.
Of the bills submitted before the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives in Baton Rouge, the one that has gained the most traction was proposed by Sen. Danny Martiny, one of the biggest gaming proponents in the legislature.
SB 153 would authorize the state’s numerous gaming establishments to accept wagers on sporting events, but would limit online gaming to licensed gaming facilities such as casinos and horse tracks.
Such a restriction could limit the revenue Louisiana generates from legal waging on sports, as other states have experienced when they have excluded wider online wagering options.
However, even if SB 153 passes, Louisiana would not necessarily become the latest state to legalize sports betting.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that prohibited sports betting outside Nevada. Since that ruling, seven states have legalized sports betting and now have operational sportsbooks, and several states are expected to follow suit by the end of the year.
Two of Louisiana’s neighbors, Mississippi and Arkansas, already passed legislation to legalize sports betting. Mississippi opened its first sportsbook last summer and is considering a bill to authorize online wagering. Arkansas voters approved sports betting last fall, and its first sportsbook should be operational this year.
But in Louisiana, even if SB 153 were signed into law it would only create referendums at the parish level so voters can decide whether to permit legalized sports betting there. A similar course of action transpired last year related to daily fantasy games, with about a fourth of all parishes voting “no.”
Louisiana House Rep. Cedric Glover introduced a bill largely mirroring SB 153, though HB 469 is less specific on details. A third bill, introduced by Rep. Neil Abramson, specifies the tax structure for legalized sports wagering and daily fantasy games, in addition to legal language on how such measures would pass into law.
As Louisiana lawmakers in both chambers work through the various bills, it stands to reason that parts of the three bills will merge into a single bill for the House and Senate to vote on.
Louisiana has a long history with legalized gaming; it is one of handful of states offering riverboat gaming, land-based casinos and commercial horse tracks. And even before the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, there had been pushes to legalize sports betting in the state.
And Louisiana sports betting has bipartisan support. Martiny is a Republican; Clover and Abramson are both Democrats.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is also Democrat, but is up for re-election this fall and his uncertain status has gaming advocates concerned because voters could elect a governor who opposes legal sports betting.
The 2019 Louisiana legislative session concludes June 6.