Sports Betting Nears Finish Line at Louisiana Legislature

Posted on: June 9, 2021, 04:14h. 

Last updated on: June 9, 2021, 04:30h.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has signed a bill setting tax rates for sports betting in the state. This puts Louisiana closer to being the only state in its immediate vicinity with mobile sports betting, possibly by football season.

New Orleans Saints fans
Saints fans cheer on the popular NFL football team based in New Orleans. Legislation to allow sports betting is expected to be approved at the Capitol in Baton Rouge in time for football season. (Image: Sports Illustrated)

Earlier this month, Edwards signed House Bill 697 by Rep. John Stefanski (R). Now known as Act No. 80, reports say it sets a 10 percent tax rate on sports bets placed inside casinos and other establishments, such as bars, where wagering would be allowed. The tax rate is 15 percent if a bet is placed on a smartphone or computer.

By Wednesday, House and Senate Conference Committee members were appointed to seek agreement on amendments to Senate Bill 247, a key bill in the sports-betting package. 

SB 247 would regulate sports betting in the state. It would allow for in-person bets placed inside casinos and for bets made on mobile devices such as smartphones and computers. The bill is sponsored by Senate President Page Cortez (R).

Louisiana is home to 13 riverboat casinos, one land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos.

In November, voters in 55 of 64 parishes approved sports betting within the boundary of their parish.

The ballot question last year did not specify whether bettors could place wagers using their smartphones. That was left for lawmakers to determine during this legislative session at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. The two-month session, which began in April, ends Thursday at 6 pm. 

One Baton Rouge television station, WBRZ-TV, already has aligned with Las Vegas-based VSiN to provide sports betting odds and information.

Fall Football Targeted

If mobile sports betting is approved this session as expected, Louisiana would be the only state in the area with legal mobile sports betting. 

Online betting is permitted in the bordering states of Arkansas and Mississippi, but only if the online wager is made somewhere on casino property. However, gaming regulators in Arkansas and Mississippi told Casino.org that no casinos in either state offer that service.

The third bordering state, Texas, does not have legal sport betting or casinos.

Placing sports bets on mobile devices is increasingly popular across the country. In the first two months of this year, mobile betting accounted for 85 percent of all sports wagering nationally, according to the Associated Press.

If current legislation is approved, sports betting might be available by the fall. Louisiana is a hotbed for sports enthusiasts, with the NFL’s Saints and NBA’s Pelicans located in New Orleans. College football teams, including the Louisiana State University Tigers in Baton Rouge, also have enthusiastic fan bases.

Historical Horse Racing

Another form of betting would be allowed in Louisiana under Senate Bill 209, sponsored by Cortez, the Senate president from Lafayette. The bill would allow historical horse racing gambling machines in the state.

These devices, which resemble slot machines, allow players to bet on races that have already occurred. Bettors can see the odds for the race, but have no way of knowing the horse’s name or when the race took place.

Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, circulated a note to legislators voicing opposition to the bill, according to The Advocate newspaper.

“Once again, we are being asked to roll the dice and approve a massive expansion of gambling, which was introduced late in the legislative process and with many curiously unanswered questions,” the note stated.