Stall Ball: After Seeing Sports Betting Efforts Fail, Louisiana Lawmaker Stops Fantasy Sports Tax Bill

Posted on: June 8, 2019, 01:22h. 

Last updated on: June 8, 2019, 01:29h.

Neither fantasy sports nor sports betting will be legal in Louisiana this year, thanks in large part to political bickering. Now, it could be two years before the state can take up either measure again.

While one of two bills tied to fantasy sports passed both chambers of the Louisiana State Legislature, state Sen. Danny Martiny stalled efforts to pass a bill that set up the tax structure for fantasy sports until lawmakers were forced to adjourn. (Image: Robin May/The Independent)

The state’s legislature on Thursday passed one bill critical to legalizing fantasy sports, stripping it of the sports betting amendments added on by the state Senate. However, a second bill, which would have set the tax rates on fantasy sports revenue did not pass the Senate before lawmakers adjourned the session.

The state senator whose sports betting amendment was removed played a key role in keeping the conference report for the bill, House Bill 600, from passing. As the seconds wound down before the mandatory 6 pm CT adjournment, state Sen. Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) accused the House of acting in bad faith in a rambling speech.

Look, I don’t think this is the way you do business,” he said on the Senate floor. “I don’t like the way that I was treated. I would feel the same way if any of you, my colleagues, were treated this way. I’m sorry but that’s what the process is all about.”

That impasse came despite voters in 47 of 64 parishes approving a fantasy sports referendum last November.

How It Happened

Martiny sponsored a bill that would have allowed a referendum on sports betting this fall. While it passed the Senate earlier in the session, the House effectively shelved it thanks to steps state Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge) and other representatives took.

That prompted Martiny to add language from his bill to Talbot’s House Bill 459, which would have set up the regulatory framework for fantasy sports, in the Senate. The House, though, unanimously rejected the Senate’s amendment, creating the need for a conference.

House and Senate leaders picked their conference members on Wednesday, but according to Louisiana newspaper The Advocate, neither side budged through discussions early on Thursday

Finally, with about an hour left in the session, a state Senator broke ranks and sided with House members.

“At the end of the day, I thought it was important to give the people what they had voted for,” state Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco) told the paper. “I wanted to give Kirk his due.”

Both bodies were able to pass HB 459, and the House passed HB 600, also sponsored by Talbot. However, questions about if a two-thirds majority was needed for passage took up time in the Senate. Then, Martiny was able to ride out the clock.

“We’re going to look like fools,” Talbot told The Advocate.

Fantasy PAC Sounds Off

Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Fairness for Fantasy Sports, called the Louisiana State Legislature “broken” as the state Senate caved to personal politics. He added that the conference members for both bills came from districts whose voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum last fall.

“The question we now have to ask ourselves is, what is the point of having an election on issues if the legislators we send to Baton Rouge to create the appropriate regulatory framework and tax structure refuse to do so?” Berni said. “What we need are elected leaders who actually vote for laws that their constituents want.”

Berni noted the political action committee will keep working to pass the regulatory framework needed for fantasy sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to offer their games in the state.

However, unless Gov. John Bel Edwards calls a special session, the earliest lawmakers can take up the bill again would be in 2021. While the state Constitution calls for the legislature to meet annually, it prohibits lawmakers from taking up tax matters in even-year sessions.