A Sports-Betting Measure on Louisiana’s Ballot Has Groups on Both Sides Battling for Votes

Posted on: October 31, 2020, 01:02h. 

Last updated on: October 31, 2020, 06:35h.

Battle lines are drawn in the vote on Tuesday to allow sports betting in Louisiana. The parish-by-parish vote lets residents decide whether they want sports wagering in their own parish. In Louisiana, counties are called parishes. The Bayou State has 64 parishes.  

Louisiana Sport Betting
Sports betting, as seen here, would be allowed in Louisiana under a proposal on the Election Day ballot. The state already permits casino gambling. (Image: The Advocate)

One one side of the Election Day vote are proponents who say sports betting would supply tax revenue to cash-strapped local governments. They are struggling to balance the books during the coronavirus pandemic. On the other side are those who maintain gambling drains hard-earned money from families and lures minors.

Casino gambling already is legal in Louisiana. The ballot measure would allow sports betting on athletic contests.

The measure’s proponents note that two bordering states, Arkansas and Mississippi, offer sports betting in casinos. Louisiana gamblers are spending more than $330 million betting on sports in other states, according to Louisiana Wins, a sports-betting advocacy group.

Richard Carbo of Louisiana Wins told The Advocate newspaper that money now going out of state instead could be used in Louisiana to “fund roads and bridges or help fill gaps in education funding.”

“Supporting this proposal keeps our tax dollars here in Louisiana to fund our priorities,” he said.

Opponents assert that societal costs will be passed along to taxpayers.

Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said all forms of wagering drain “personal wealth from Louisiana citizens, promising payouts which are realistically undeliverable.”

“This results in life-altering losses for the gambler family,” he told the newspaper. “Louisiana taxpayers are left to pick up the broken pieces of bad bets and the lives they destroy.”

Mills also said the ballot measure lacks details on how minors will be shielded from “predatory marketers.”

Campaign Contributions

Sports-betting companies are contributing money in an effort to win votes for the ballot measure.

As in many states, sports are an ingrained part of the culture in Louisiana. The state’s flagship Louisiana State University Tigers are the defending national collegiate football champions. The state also is home to the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints and National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans.

This contributes to the belief among proponents that sport-betting would be popular in the state. Also, casinos in the Lake Charles area are near the nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston, where sports wagering is illegal. Proponents believe this proximity would give Lake Charles-area casinos a boost if sports betting is allowed there. The area recently was clobbered by two hurricanes in six weeks.

Against this backdrop, DraftKings and FanDuel have contributed more than half the $975,500 Louisiana Wins is using to promote sports betting, according to The Advocate. By the Oct. 5 campaign finance reporting period, the two national sports-betting companies had contributed $250,000 each.

Mills said these contributions are an effort to lure Louisiana into sports betting by “out of state operators who specialize in online gambling.”

Legislative Action Required

Two years ago, 47 of 64 Louisiana parishes voted to approve participation in daily fantasy sports. In that election, DraftKings and FanDuel donated most of the $1 million that supporters raised, according to The Advocate.

Sports-betting proponents believe the vote could be similar this time around.

Even in those parishes that approve sport betting on Tuesday, the Legislature will need to vote on how to tax and regulate the sports-betting industry. This process, which does not require a public vote, is expected to take place in 2021 or later.