A committee within Louisiana’s House of Representatives approved a 13% tax on sports gambling net proceeds in preparation for what Louisiana sports betting enthusiasts hope becomes the full passage of a bill that would legalize sports gambling at select locations within the state.
Louisiana sports betting passed its first big hurdle back in April when the state Senate voted 24-15 in favor of Senate Bill 153 in what some are saying could be the largest expansion of gambling within the state in over 20 years.
That same bill passed the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on Tuesday by an 11-6 vote, with amendments (where video poker expansion was stripped from the bill). The bill now moves on to the House Appropriations Committee and the full House of Representatives where it will require 53 votes to pass.
While the House Appropriations Committee could define the tax structure to be implemented on the bill’s passage, the biggest potential roadblock still lay ahead within the entire House, where some pundits expect a fierce battle.
Should SB 153 be approved, it would then go to the ballot box where Louisiana voters could make the decision themselves. The outcome would be determined on a parish-by-parish basis within the municipalities where casinos and racetracks are located.
According to an LSU survey published in April, 59% of state residents support the legalization of betting on professional sports indicating voters living within those parishes would probably pass the proposal in some, if not all, places.
The bill would legalize in-person sports gambling at riverboats and racetrack casinos in Louisiana. Currently, the only sports betting legal under state law are on horse races at licensed racetrack casinos.
The earliest sports betting likely would be in place, should all go as planned for proponents, is January 2020. If that happens, most of the revenue collected from the 13% tax would go toward funding early education programs for children up to age 3. The remainder would go directly to the parishes where the casinos are located, plus provide a fund intended to help those with gambling addictions.
A previous bill, which was heavily debated last year after the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on legalized sports betting, failed during the 2018 legislative session. But sports betting advocates and like-minded lawmakers hope to get this new sports betting bill passed to stave off potential lost earnings from neighboring states, such as Mississippi, which have already passed similar bills.
State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, the bill’s sponsor, reportedly went so far as to mirror the approach Mississippi used last year to generate $2.6 million in tax revenues over the first eight months of operation.
“I didn’t do any studies or anything,” Martiny told The Advocate. “All I’m trying to do is give casinos in Louisiana an opportunity to compete.”
Sports betting via online bookmakers, like in New Jersey, is not part of the Louisiana legislation. Instead, mobile sports betting would follow the model implemented in Mississippi where mobile betting is only available onsite within casinos.
However, where Mississippi law permits betting to take place anywhere on the premises, Louisiana's bill only allows bets to be placed in areas where only people 21 and older can enter and participate.
The legislation would allow sports wagering at four racetracks, 15 riverboat casinos as well as Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans. Betting on high school sports, video games and electronic sports would be prohibited.