Time Runs Out on Louisiana’s Sports Betting Bill for 2019


By Derek Helling

June 10th, 2019 - 9:15am

Residents of Louisiana who want to legally place bets on sporting events or voted to legalize daily fantasy sports games could be waiting for a long time.

As the legislative term ended on June 6, the state’s legislature failed to reach a consensus on a bill that would provide the regulatory structure necessary for daily fantasy sports operators to roll out their products in the Bayou State.

The House and Senate also couldn’t reach an agreement on an amendment that would have established a referendum on legalized sports betting. In an ironic twist, the ambition to accomplish both objectives prevented either from being achieved.

Louisiana’s 11th-Hour Drama Kills Bills

The point of contention was an amendment added to the Senate version of the fantasy sports regulatory bill which strongly mimicked a sports betting bill introduced by outgoing Sen. Danny Martiny.

Members of the state House opposed the “piggybacking” effort and insisted on the bills, HB 459 and HB 600, being sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk as measures which would only formalize the structure of fantasy sports in the state. Neither side flinched and the legislative term ended without HB 459 or HB 600 being given final approval by the House and Senate with or without Martiny’s amendment.

Martiny’s earlier bill and the more recent amendment would have set up a parish-by-parish vote in all parishes which already contain a casino or racetrack on the issue of whether to legalize sports betting within those parishes.

That method was identical to how the state’s voters decided on legalizing fantasy sports, albeit on a contingency that the legislature would still need to create a framework for products offered by companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to accept entries from Louisiana residents. As the legislature failed to do so, the future for either legal fantasy games or sports betting in the Pelican State is uncertain.

Political Uncertainty Leaves Louisiana Gambling Dubious

What’s perhaps most daunting for those in Louisiana wishing to play the fantasy games they voted for, or someday legally betting on New Orleans Saints or Pelicans games, is the fact that doing so in the next session will require the governor to call a special session to do so. Not only are there doubts about whether Bel Edwards would do so, but whether he will even get the chance.

The governor’s mansion, on top of every seat in the state’s legislature, is up for grabs this fall. Bel Edwards, a Democrat, currently has two legitimate Republican challengers: Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham. Whichever candidate wins the primary will stand a good chance to unseat Bel Edwards given the state’s strong Republican base.

How favorably a new governor would view expanding gambling in the state is a big unknown, along with how positively any new members of the state’s two legislative bodies will lean.

Providing a regulatory structure for fantasy sports might be more likely than legalizing sports betting. Even Sen. Gary Smith, one of Martiny’s allies in attaching the sports betting amendment, relented on Friday stating it was important to give Louisianans what they had voted for, according to The Advocate.

If that attitude of following the will of the people becomes pervasive throughout the next assembly and potentially from a new governor, a special session to create the rules and tax structure for fantasy sports could happen. If that happens it could be viewed as a stepping stone to legalizing sports betting in future terms.

For the time being, the matter is concluded. Considering the way things have played out and the looming doubts, bettors in other states might get better odds on the New Orleans Saints going a perfect 19-0 in the next National Football League season than they would on Louisiana legalizing sports betting in the next legislative term.

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