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One Louisiana Sports Betting Bill Down, One More To Go

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the first of two Louisiana sports betting bills needed to launch sports betting in the state on Monday.

Edwards put his stamp on HB 697 just a few days after another important sports betting bill, SB 247, passed the House, 78-15. The Senate bill still needs House amendments approved by the Senate before it heads to the Governor’s desk.

The bills enact sports betting in Louisiana, satisfying the ballot wishes of 64% of the state’s residents. Bill sponsors hope for a launch by the end of football season and incorporated temporary licenses to allow mobile betting while retail sportsbooks are built.

“I’m more optimistic now [that sports betting will launch during football season],” co-sponsor Rep. John Stefanski told LSR Friday morning. “We gave the gaming control board the ability to give provisional licenses, so even if they don’t have a physical sportsbook built, they can go live with a mobile application. It’s very likely.”

A third bill, SB 142, appropriates tax revenue from sports betting and still awaits House approval.

Prospects for sports betting in Louisiana

There is no indication the governor will go against a voter mandate and veto the bills. Once signed, the bills regulate sports betting in the 55 of 64 Louisiana parishes that approved it in November 2020.

Senate President Patrick Page Cortez sponsored SB 247, which sets up the main regulatory guidelines, including 20 licenses for the state’s casinos and racinos.

Retail and mobile sports betting are allowed with the licenses, with up to two online skins per license. An amendment passed in the House allows for bettors to register online or in-person.

Sports betting for local businesses

Stefanski sponsored HB 697, which sets up the tax and fee structure for LA sports betting. Tax bills must originate in the House, per state law, and require a two-thirds vote. His bill finished its legislative journey on May 20.

Changes to the Louisiana Lottery also require a two-thirds vote. That is why Stefanski’s bill included a sports betting license for the lottery.

The lottery license will act as a mobile license and allow for kiosks in local bars and restaurants. Stefanski wanted to ensure local businesses had an opportunity to participate.

Crunch the numbers

Stefanski’s bill sets up a $250,000 license application fee and a $500,000 five-year license fee. His bill also establishes a 10% tax on retail bets and 15% on online bets.

The representative estimates the state can generate up to $20 million annually from sports betting revenue. Other estimates reach up to $50 million.

Senator Rick Ward’s bill, SB 142, dictates where that money will go. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee moved the bill favorably with some amendments altering fund distribution:

  • 25% to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund
  • 12% by proportionate distribution to each parish which taxable conduct occurred
  • 2% to the Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund
  • 1% to the Sports Wagering Purse Supplemental Fund
  • Remaining money to the general fund

Sports betting cruises through Bayou State chambers

With the voter mandate behind them, legislators made relatively quick work of the sports betting bills.

The three bills were introduced in April and faced little opposition in their journeys. That might surprise some as daily fantasy sports received similar voter support in 2018 yet will likely launch around the same time as sports betting.

“The Senate president put his name behind the main bill and we work extensively on the two bills,” Stefanski said. “Authors matter. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to take it on, I have a lot of faith in myself and I wanted to see it happen.

“In the end, every single House district and Senate district, except maybe one House district, voted for it. Maybe some parishes didn’t approve it, but when you look at districts as a whole, people supported this. It’s something people want.”

Bigger market than it appears?

Many of the state’s more than 4.6 million residents want sports betting. That’s approximately 1 million fewer people than Colorado, which drew $2.3 billion in bets during its first 12 months of legal sports betting.

There is a vibrant sports fanbase, particularly for the college sports teams at LSU. Louisiana is also home to two professional sports teams: New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints. Caesars Entertainment is expected to secure the naming rights for the Superdome, home of the Saints, this year.

A moderately significant market on its own, Louisiana is also near two major Texas cities: Houston and Dallas. Those markets, with more than 14 million people combined, are less than three-hour drives to Lake Charles and Shreveport, respectively, where Louisiana casinos are located.

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