Louisiana ‘On Track’ for Sports Betting in October

Posted on: September 22, 2021, 02:14h. 

Last updated on: September 22, 2021, 02:31h.

Louisiana officials are targeting early October for sportsbooks to begin operating in the state’s casinos. The use of smartphones to place wagers will take longer. 

New Orleans Saints fans
New Orleans Saints fans gesture in support of their favorite NFL team. The Saints (1-1) are on the road this weekend, facing the New England Patriots (1-1). (Image: USA Today)

Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns told the USA Today Network delays caused by Hurricane Ida pushed the hoped-for September start date back a month.

“We had been projecting late September, but our goal now is to have them up and running by Oct. 1,” Johns said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) appointed Johns this summer to lead the nine-member Control Board. Johns had been a Republican state senator from the Lake Charles area, one of the state’s gambling hubs.

This summer, Edwards signed legislation legalizing sports betting in the 55 of 64 parishes that approved it last year in an election. Sports betting cannot begin until the rules are put in place to tax and regulate the industry. 

The Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division works with the Control Board in regulating the gaming industry and enforcing gambling laws. Every State Police trooper recently was reassigned to help with hurricane disaster recovery, Johns said.

 We lost about seven to 10 days, but everything is back on track now,” he said.

On Aug. 29, Hurricane Ida barreled ashore on the Louisiana Gulf Coast south of New Orleans. The deadly Category 4 hurricane caused massive regional power outages and destroyed homes and businesses. Some South Louisiana casinos were closed for at least 10 days after the hurricane hit.

Meanwhile, eight state-regulated casinos have applied for sportsbook licenses. Johns said the identity of the eight is not a public record.

Louisiana is home to 13 riverboat casinos, four racinos — horse tracks with slot machines — and one land-based casino in downtown New Orleans. A Lake Charles riverboat casino damaged last year in a hurricane is set to reopen in 2022 as a land-based resort.

Longer Wait for Smartphone Betting

Bettors wanting to use a smartphone to wager on live sporting events will have to wait awhile.

Johns said he hopes some of the companies operating smartphone betting apps will be approved in a few months. Casinos in the state will partner with these companies in offering mobile wagering.

“Mobile takes longer because the casinos use outside vendors to do that work, and those vendors haven’t been licensed yet, so they have to go through the suitability process and background checks with the State Police,” Johns said. “We’re hoping to have some of those approved in a 60-day window.”

When mobile sports betting is approved, Louisiana will have a head start in the region on that type of wagering. No state bordering Louisiana offers mobile sports betting.

Betting in Bars Likely in 2022

The use of kiosks to place bets in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol might not be allowed until early 2022. The task of overseeing kiosks falls to the Louisiana Lottery Corp. 

Louisiana Lottery President Rose Hudson said the agency is seeking vendors and is putting together the rules for that segment of the industry. She told the USA Today Network this process should be wrapped up in November. That means kiosks could be in place by the beginning of next year.

Hudson said she expects bars and restaurants to welcome the presence of kiosks for customers who want to place sports bets.

“It offers the businesses another way to attract customers,” she said.