Louisiana Headed for Dispute Over Mobile Sports Betting

Posted on: November 9, 2020, 01:40h. 

Last updated on: November 9, 2020, 02:12h.

With sports betting now legal in Louisiana, a battle is shaping up over whether to let people wager on their smartphones and the internet, or limiting them to betting only when physically inside casinos.

Mobile sports betting
A smartphone phone user, seen in this file photo, prepares to place a bet on a sporting event. In Louisiana, a decision has not been made whether to let people place bets on smartphones and online. (Image: Wall Street Journal)

Those who support mobile wagering say casino-only sports betting doesn’t raise as much tax revenue for the state.

House Speaker Pro Temp Tanner Magee (R) told The Advocate newspaper that people in the gaming industry know “that if you don’t do mobile, it is not going to be much money.”

“If you do mobile, it is,” he said.

Next door in Mississippi, sports wagering is legal only in casinos. Allen Godfrey, the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s executive director, noted that casino-only sports betting generates foot traffic for the resorts.

When they are there, they evidently have a tendency to play the other games that are available,” he told the newspaper.

The measure on the Nov. 3 ballot in Louisiana to allow sports-betting passed in 55 of 64 parishes. Most of the nine parishes that rejected it are in rural north-central Louisiana.

The proposal passed by overwhelming majorities in the larger cities, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which are home to several casinos. Sports betting will be allowed only in the parishes where voters approved it.

When the Legislature next meets in April, lawmakers will have to determine how to regulate, tax, and license sports betting. Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Michael D. Noel said the legislative session is the start of a long licensing process that probably will delay wagering in the state until 2022.

Tax Issues

In Mississippi, where mobile sports wagering is prohibited, the state in 2019 brought in about $3.5 million in tax revenue, Godfrey said.

In the larger state of New Jersey, sports wagering occurs in casinos and also is allowed on smartphones and online. The state has collected $80 million in tax revenue from this, with 80 percent of that total coming from smartphone and online betting, according to The Advocate.

Wade Duty, executive director of the Casino Association of Louisiana, said adopting a Mississippi model “is not a massive revenue engine.”

“If you adopt a New Jersey model, it is a significant addition,” he told the newspaper. He noted that his organization has not taken a position on the matter.

The Louisiana Family Forum, which opposed the sports betting measure, has expressed concern about the appeal to minors and the impact on families that suffer major gambling losses.

Lake Charles Recovery

With sports betting being illegal in Texas, passage of the measure in Southwestern Louisiana was seen as a potential economic boost to that region. Two deadly hurricanes that recently blew ashore only six weeks apart clobbered that part of the Bayou State. The storms damaged the four commercial casinos in the Lake Charles area.

However, Lake Charles is only two hours east of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and a hotbed for college and professional sports. Supporters viewed this as a potential benefit to Lake Charles-area resorts.

More than 60 percent of the voters in Calcasieu Parish, which extends to the Texas border, supported the sportsbetting measure. Lake Charles is in Calcasieu Parish.