As Louisiana Referendum Nears, Sports Betting Proponents Speak Out in Favor of Measure

Posted on: October 20, 2020, 11:52h. 

Last updated on: October 21, 2020, 10:51h.

The push to get sports betting legalized in Louisiana has taken a public turn in the last week. Newspapers, a key business organization, and state lawmakers have come out in support of the measure.

Louisiana sports betting
Voters in Louisiana are deciding on a parish-by-parish basis whether to legalize betting on sporting events, such as New Orleans Saints football games. (Image: Mark Lagrange/

Voters in all 64 of the state’s parishes – what Louisiana calls its counties – will go to the polls to vote on the referendum.

Supporting the measure is a group called Louisiana Wins. It is a 501(c)4 special interest group organizers say was created by state residents and “avid sports fans” to help voters learn more about the referendum and how regulated sports betting can benefit the state.

According to a report filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration’s Campaign Finance Portal, Boyd Gaming, which operates five casinos and racinos in the state, gave the political action committee $150,000 last week. Last month, it contributed another $100,000 to the group.

Others that have contributed $250,000 each to Louisiana Wins are Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, and FanDuel, with all of those taking place last month. Caesars operates six casinos and racinos in the state, while FanDuel and DraftKings, which have also financed a similar campaign in Maryland, pursued fantasy sports in Louisiana and represent the two largest online sportsbooks in the US.

Penn National Gaming, which also has five casinos in Louisiana, has given $125,000 to the cause.

Louisiana Wins claims sports betting could generate as much as $330 million in new revenue for the state. According to its website, that is based off projections by independent research firm Spectrum Gaming Group. While a copy of that report is not posted on the site, such a high figure would take into account the revenue the sportsbooks receive, and not just the tax revenue the state and local governments would get.

For perspective, sportsbooks in Pennsylvania – a state with about 2.7 times the population of Louisiana – generated gross revenues of $135.5 million in fiscal 2019-2020. That figure, though, is somewhat incomplete, as several sportsbooks were not open at the start of the fiscal year. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis essentially wiped out betting for the last quarter of the fiscal year.

Proponents Say Sports Betting Brings People

On Tuesday, the Louisiana group posted its latest video with a key leader speaking out in support of legal sports betting. State Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, represents a district that includes five casinos and a racetrack with slots, an area that once served as a major gaming hub, only to lose market share as tribal casinos sprouted in Oklahoma.

Earlier this year, one Shreveport-Bossier casino closed permanently after the COVID-19 crisis.

It’s important that we attract people from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to Shreveport-Bossier to enjoy our amenities at our riverboats and Louisiana Downs,” he said in the video posted on social media.

Others who have come out in favor of the measure include the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as the editorial boards of The Baton Rouge/New Orleans Advocate, The Ouachita Citizen, and The Gambit, a New Orleans alt-weekly.

The main opponent to the initiative is the Louisiana Family Forum. In an email to The Advocate, President Gene Mills said sports betting is similar to other forms of gaming because of the damage gaming can do to families.

“Louisiana taxpayers are left to pick up the broken pieces of bad bets and the lives they destroy,” Mills wrote.

If Measure Succeeds, What’s Next?

The referendum is part of the Nov. 3 general election ballot. Louisiana officials, though, do allow a period of no-excuse early voting. This year, that period started last Friday and continues through next Monday. Polls are open from 8 am- 7 pm CT everyday, except Sunday.

According to The Advocate, nearly 260,000 registered voters, equal to nearly 9 percent of the registered voting population, went to the polls last Friday and Saturday. That’s up 58 percent from the same period in 2016.

Unlike other states, Louisiana’s referendum process lets each parish decide on its own whether to allow the activity. So, regardless of what happens statewide, the individual parish votes will determine if that jurisdiction allows sports betting.

Two years ago, when the state held a similar measure for fantasy sports, voters in 47 of the 64 parishes approved legalizing the games.

With sports betting almost assuredly to pass somewhere in Louisiana on Election Night, there’s still more work that will need to happen.

That will come in the state legislature, Ryan Berni, a spokesperson for Louisiana Wins, told in an email. When lawmakers meet in Baton Rouge, they will come up with the regulations to oversee gaming. That includes determining the tax rate for sports betting and whether online sports betting would be allowed – and if so, whether customers could sign up remotely for mobile accounts.

Given the parish-by-parish nature of the Louisiana referendum, online sports betting would face an additional geofencing challenge, as it would only be available in the parishes that approve the referendum.