Louisiana residents will not get the chance to vote to approve legal sports betting in their parishes this year. Sports betting seemed to be making a late-session push in the Bayou State, but that time has finally run out. Louisiana state lawmakers couldn’t put their differences aside in time, and they failed to pass a sports betting bill on the final day of the session.
The bill that seemed to have a chance to make its way through, HB 459, was originally established to gain revenue from daily fantasy sports. There was an attempt to add sports betting language in the bill, but that caused some problems. Now the state is without legal sports betting until at least 2020, perhaps even longer.
Senator Danny Martiny (R-District 10) was the biggest advocate of sports betting in Louisiana. Now, thanks to term limits, Martiny’s time as a Senator in Louisiana is over. This leaves the Pelican State in an odd spot in terms of sports betting. The state’s biggest advocate for legal sports betting, and perhaps most knowledgable person on the topic, is no longer there to help Louisiana move towards legalization.
The Senate approved Martiny’s separate sports betting bill. The House, however, wasn’t as supportive. The House rejected Martiny’s bill and considered it an “unacceptable expansion on gambling.”
Martiny’s sports betting bill would have allowed for sportsbooks at the state’s casinos and racetracks starting in 2020. The bill would have required a local referendum in each parish. That means residents would have been given the chance to decide if that is what they want in their local areas. Seems like a pretty fair opportunity, but the state of Louisiana doesn’t seem to want to leave that option in the hands of residents.
“I think the public has a right to have a say on sports betting,” said state Senator Gary Smith (D-Norco). “Without doing that, we’re holding Louisiana back, considering our competitors to the east and the north.”
Long Wait Ahead
This is the second straight year that Louisiana missed the boat on legal sports betting. Lawmakers won’t return to session again until March 2020. That means the state has at least nine months to wait to legalize sports betting, although it will more than likely take longer. Assuming Louisiana does eventually bring sports betting to the state, it more than likely won’t be operational for at least a year from now, but more than likely, it’ll be even longer.
Daily fantasy sports are legal and eligible for regulation, but there is no tax structure in place. Residents of Louisiana cannot begin playing DFS until the Legislature approves measures to establish the rules and the tax rate. They failed to do so this session.
Tax bills can only be considered in odd-numbered years. Therefore, daily fantasy tax can’t be considered until 2021. However, the governor could call a special session to do so, which seems unlikely at this time.