Louisiana Senate approves sports betting legislation

The dream of sports betting in Louisiana is edging closer to reality after the State Senate gave the green light to SB130. 

Passed with a 29-8 margin, the bill will now move forward to the House of Representatives. 

If the House of Representatives approves the legislation, residents will be able to vote for or against legalising the vertical this November. 

The referendum would be divided on a parish-by-parish basis, with only jurisdictions that vote in favour being allowed to offer sports betting products. 

More work to be done

Should a referendum be called, the option to regulate sports betting would feature on the General Election ballot on 3rd November. 

Once the results come in, it then would be up to the state’s Gaming Control Board – alongside other lawmakers – to draft rules for parishes that voted in favour. They would also have to determine laws related to operator regulation, where the tax rate would stand.

These would all have to be put together next year because Louisiana only considers fiscal matters in odd-numbered years. The only exception to this is if a special fiscal session is ordered by the state’s Governor. 

In order to pass tax-related legislation, two-thirds of lawmakers must agree on doing so. 

“The best way to go”

Senator J. Cameron, who proposed SB130, presented the bill to the Senate for its third reading. During this discussion, he felt that a parish-by-parish approach was the best possible solution. 

He said: “This is a very simple and straightforward bill. It allows for a referendum which will be held on November 3rd of 2020 to determine whether or not the constituents in your area are in favor of having sports wagering in their parish.

“I know that sports wagering is a very sensitive issue for a lot of folks which is why we put it in this format here.”

Senator Kirk Talbot was the only person with questions to ask Henry. He wanted to know:

“So, this is just what we did with fantasy sports two years ago? Nothing to do with the regulations, the details, just ask the public on a parish-by-parish vote, not a statewide all or nothing vote?”

Cameron responded by saying “correct” – that it was a simple yes or no question as to whether or not people in particular parishes wanted sports betting. 

47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes voted in favour of daily fantasy sports in 2018, but the bill hit a stumbling block a year later. 

Narrowing down the bills

SB130 was one of five sports betting-related bills put forward at the start of the ongoing legislative session. SB66, which had a lot of similarities to Henry’s legislation, was also referred to the Judiciary B Committee – but only Henry’s one passed. 

Two other proposals, SB378 and SB332, would outline conditions for future regulated operators – if sports betting is legalised. A vote for SB378 was planned for 13th May. 

SB357, which would permit “promotional wagers” using uncashable vouchers or credits, took the place of SB332. This was referred to the State Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, but HB357 – which was identical to SB357 – hasn’t left the Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice.  

The House of Representatives is still in session until 1st June.

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