Sports Betting Amendment May Scuttle Fantasy Sports Bill in Louisiana

Posted on: June 5, 2019, 11:57h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2019, 11:57h.

The Louisiana State Legislature enters its final day of the 2019 session with lawmakers still trying to work out a way to legalize sports betting in the state. However, efforts to do so may jeopardize fantasy sports legislation in the process.

Louisiana state Sen. Danny Martiny is trying to amend a fantasy sports bill to include a referendum for sports betting in parishes with casinos or racetracks. The state legislature’s final day in the 2019 session is Thursday. (Image: Arthur D. Lauck/The Advocate)

House and Senate leaders assigned committee members on Wednesday afternoon to hammer out the differences the bodies have in House Bill 459. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge), initially focused on the regulatory framework needed for fantasy sports providers to operate in the state.

The legislation was needed after voters across the state approved a referendum last November in 47 of 64 parishes.

The state Senate, though, added provisions when it passed the bill on Monday that would legalize sports betting in the state. It was done after the state House Appropriations Committee late last month shelved a Senate bill on sports betting.

On Tuesday, the House rejected the Senate’s insertion by a 97-0 margin, setting up the need for the conference committee.

Committee members include Talbot and state Sen. Danny Martiny (R-Metairie), the leading proponent of the sports betting legislation. The six-member committee has little time to work out a solution as the legislature must adjourn by 6 pm CT on Thursday.

Fantasy Sports Push

A political action committee set up to support the legalization of fantasy sports in the state went on a last-minute push to persuade lawmakers to save the regulations. The PAC’s preference is to keep needed fantasy sports legislation out of the sports betting debate.

Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana went on social media to encourage people to contact lawmakers. In addition, the organization took to Twitter to make specific pleas to members of the conference committee. It also launched digital and radio ads in hopes of saving the bill

Hey Sen. @dmartiny2011, over 69% of your district voted to play fantasy sports,” the group posted in a message to Martiny. “Please stand with them and advance the fantasy sports legislation.”

Talbot told reporters that he did not support tacking on sports betting to his bill.

If the regulations do not pass the legislature in this session, it would mean such providers as DraftKings and FanDuel would have to wait another year before offering games to players in Louisiana.

Sports Betting Details

Martiny sponsored Senate Bill 153 to counter efforts in Mississippi, which has had sports betting since last summer, and Arkansas, which has legalized sports betting but has not yet started accepting wagers.

SB 153 would have allowed each parish that has a racetrack or casino vote in the November election. The bill would have allowed betting on both professional and collegiate sports.

The senator told reporters that he believes most in the state support sports betting, and he called out House leaders for derailing his bill.

He also didn’t express a lot of optimism about the chances for sports betting getting passed in this session.

“It’s alive,” Martiny told The Advocate. “I wouldn’t say it’s well. It’s alive.”