Louisiana sports betting bill heads to House Floor

On Tuesday, a Louisiana committee sent a sports betting bill to the House for consideration.

The bill, titled SB 153, advanced after receiving a vote of 11-6 from the Louisiana House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.

If SB 153 is successful it won’t legalize sports betting in Louisiana. Instead, it will create a ballot question that will allow voters in the state to decide whether to legalize sports betting. Residents will be required to vote on sports betting on a parish-by-parish basis.

In April, the Senate voted 24-15 in favor of the bill, sending it to the House for consideration.

What’s in SB 153?

If the bill is successful and voters approve sports betting, the state’s 20 gambling venues could offer the activity to punters.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board will be responsible for overseeing and regulating the Louisiana sports betting market.

A companion bill titled HB 587, which contains key regulatory measures for sports betting in Louisiana, was approved by the Appropriations Committee approved with a vote of 12-9 on Monday.

HB 587 calls for a 13% tax on gross gaming revenue. Problem gambling initiatives in the state will receive 1% of tax revenue, parishes with casinos and sportsbooks will receive 2% and 10% will be allocated to early childhood education.

The bill does not contain provisions for online or mobile sports betting which could hinder the state’s sports betting market

Mobile and online sports betting have proven to be a key component in regulated sports betting markets such as New Jersey and Nevada. In the state of New Jersey, over 80% of sports wagers are placed via online and mobile sports betting platforms.

What lawmakers think of the bill

Senator Danny Martiny, the sponsor of SB 153, argues that the state should legalize sports betting to avoid losing tax revenue to its neighbor Mississippi and the unregulated sports betting market.

During the Committee hearing, Martiny said: “We already get so much money from gaming and yet we seem to do everything we can to not put (casinos) on an even-playing field.

“We don’t regulate it, we don’t have the wherewithal to deal with it. If you pass this bill, you’ll be giving the gaming control board the ability to regulate it.”

Several lawmakers that oppose the legalization of sports betting on moral grounds argued that the state will be generating tax revenue “off the backs of the poor.”

However, Representative Barbara Carpenter said it is not up to the legislature to consider the morality of legalizing sports betting.

Carpenter said: “Our job is not to regulate morality, our job is to do what is right at this time. All people who gamble are not poor, I compare that to people who beg on the streets. Because all people who beg on the streets are not poor. I seen some of them go get in their Mercedes and drive off.”

Despite the heated discussion, the bill passed the committee with relative ease and will now go to the House budget committee for review.

As the 2019 legislative session comes to a close on June 6, lawmakers have just two weeks to approve the sports betting bill and send it to Governor John Bel Edwards for final approval.

The hearing on SB 153 can be streamed here

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