Louisiana Sports Betting Bill Hits Legislative Bump Again


By Derek Helling

June 5th, 2019 - 2:00pm

The Louisiana Senate’s latest push to legalize sports betting seems headed for another stalemate.

As the Senate was approving a bill that provides a regulatory framework for fantasy sports, it added an amendment identical to a bill that was shelved last week that would also legalize wagering on sporting events.

Unfortunately for those looking to participate, the measure looks it will suffer an impasse. The full House voted 48-41 not to pull the bill out of the Appropriations Committee.

Louisiana Legislative Standoff Looming

Rep. Kirk Talbot stated that adding such an amendment would lead him to use his position in a joint committee to shelve the entire bill. This move didn’t come from a gaming adversary: Talbot sponsored the fantasy sports legislation.

Sen. Danny Martiny, who sponsored the sports betting bill the Senate approved earlier this session, said he is aware of Talbot’s commitment to sideline the bill but hopes a compromise can be reached. Under Martiny’s stewardship, the bill overwhelmingly passed through the Senate before it was derailed in the House.

The House’s House Appropriations Committee had considered the measure, but so many unpalatable amendments were added that the state’s casinos withdrew their support. In response, one of the bill’s supporters brought up a measure on the full House floor to strip the bill of the amendments and allow a vote, but that vote also failed.

That move garnered enough support to be reconsidered, but hasn’t come yet taken that next step because the committee’s chair, Rep. Cameron Henry, has been absent when the time came to vote.

Details of Bayou State’s Sports Betting Bill

SB153 would have set up a parish-by-parish vote in all the parishes that already contain a casino or racetrack on sports betting, similar to how the state approved fantasy sports. Like the fantasy bill, it would require further legislation to provide a framework for the regulation of the activity should the state’s voters approve it.

The bill legalizes limited mobile betting for players as long as their device is within a geofenced location of a physical sportsbook, a restraint that mirrors Mississippi’s structure.

Further legislation would specific taxes, operator licenses costs and number of available skins.

All of those concerns will have to wait until after the matter of whether the current amendment to the fantasy regulations bill will advance. There is a myriad of possibilities, which include rescinding the amendment and letting the fantasy sports bill progress on its own. This would pacify Talbot but put the matter of sports betting legalization back on the shelf, to Martiny’s chagrin.

Martiny would reportedly prefer the bill be passed onto the full House for authorization as is, and deal with the fallout should the vote fail. It’s also possible that the sports betting amendment could be modified to enhance its chances of making it through the joint committee. For the moment it seems it’s a matter of who blinks first.

There are no indicators at this point of how quickly one of the involved parties may relent, or if everyone involved can agree on a compromise, leaving the possibility of this debate extending past the expiration of the current session and into coming years. Sports betting backers had originally hoped to pass a bill in time to place the legalization question before voters in state elections this October.

If lawmakers can’t come to what seems an increasingly unlikely consensus in the coming days, it would mean legislators will have to start over next spring. If passed next year, it would mean waiting until the November 2020 elections for the ballot measure, and sports betting wouldn’t come to the Bayou State until 2021 at the earliest.

In short, a delay now could mean that Louisiana’s push for legalizing sports betting could take several more years.

Written By
Derek Helling

Since graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Journalism & Mass Communications and Sport Studies, Derek Helling has worked for small-town newspapers and written for various outlets, including FanSided's The Outside Game, Ozy and Legal Sports... Read More

Since graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Journalism & Mass Communications and Sport Studies, Derek Helling has worked for small-town newspapers and written for...

Read More