Louisiana Voters Back Sports Betting in Many Parishes

Posted on: November 3, 2020, 08:58h. 

Last updated on: November 3, 2020, 09:13h.

Louisiana voters came out in favor of sports betting in many of the state’s parishes this election year, according to unofficial results Tuesday. In Louisiana, counties are called parishes. The state has 64 parishes.

Louisiana elections
An election worker, seen here, monitors the early voting process in Louisiana. In Tuesday’s results, voters favored sports betting in many of the state’s parishes. (Image: nola.com)

Voting results late Tuesday showed sports wagering winning by big margins in the larger parishes that are home to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Shreveport. The parish-by-parish vote allows sports betting just within the boundaries of that parish. Polls closed at 8 pm CT.

Casino gambling already is legal in Louisiana. The vote on Tuesday permits sports betting on athletic contests such as football games. In 2018, 47 of 64 parishes voted to legalize online sports fantasy games for cash prizes.

Leading up to Tuesday’s vote, proponents said sports betting provides tax revenue to local governments struggling to balance the books during the coronavirus pandemic. Proponents also said Louisiana loses tax money to the two bordering states, Arkansas and Mississippi, that permit sports betting.

Opponents said taxpayers will have to pick up the societal costs when families experience huge gambling losses. Detractors also said sports wagering lures minors.   

Legislative Action

Sports betting will not take place right away in parishes that approved the measure on Tuesday.

When the Legislature meets again in the spring, lawmakers will determine how to regulate and tax the sports-betting industry.

Also, there has been no decision on whether sports betting will be allowed only in casinos or also on online platforms. Mississippi and Arkansas permit sports betting in casinos. Another Southern state, Tennessee, began allowing sports betting Nov. 1, but only online. Tennessee does not have legal casinos.

Jim Rigot, general manager of Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel in the capital city, said the big question is whether sports wagering will be “restricted to brick-and-mortar, or are they going to offer it to mobile users?”

“In New Jersey, they allow you to wager anywhere as long as you’re within the state borders, which they can monitor through a GPS tracking system,” Rigot told the Business Report. “In Mississippi, you have to go into a casino to make a bet.”

Rigot told the publication he anticipates Louisiana initially will authorize betting inside casinos before expanding it to mobile platforms.

Campaign Contributions

Louisiana Wins, an advocacy group supporting the measure, received more than half of its $2.05 million in campaign contributions from two national sports-betting companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, according to Business Report.

Casino companies operating in the state also contributed money in support of the proposal.

Kim Ginn, general manager of L’Auberge Casino and Hotel, said its parent company, Penn National Gaming, was part of “a broad coalition of gaming licensees in Louisiana” backing the measure. Other companies include Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming and BetMGM, according to Business Report.

In the Lake Charles area, two powerful hurricanes in six weeks recently clobbered the casinos operating in that southwestern part of the state. With most of the precincts reporting by late Tuesday, voters in Calcasieu Parish, where Lake Charles is located, supported sports betting by a 2-to-1 margin.

Calcasieu Parish extends to the Texas border. The parish is near the nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston, where sports wagering is illegal. Proponents believe this proximity will give Lake Charles-area casinos a boost when sports betting is implemented in the parish.