Louisiana has long been a state to watch with regard to the legalization of sports betting. A move by Senator Cameron Henry on Tuesday resurrected the chances of citizens of the state being able to wager on their favorite team, likely not this year but certainly next year. Legislation was rejected in some contentious debates last year but a host of factors has put sports betting back in the forefront of Louisiana lawmakers’ long wish list.
Bill S 130, which would get the subject of legal sports betting legalization before voters on the November ballot was introduced Tuesday and was advanced through the state legislative committee by the end of the day. While rules and regulations are far down the road, Senator Henry's plan was to get the conversation started with an eye 2021 for finalizing the platform and that is what he did.
“It’s going to be a very significant debate on who is able to do it, how, and what the regulations will be,” Henry said. “While dealing with COVID-19, we’re trying to hold back on bills that take a lot of debate. We’re just going to pass the referendum bill, see if folks like it and next year, start the process of putting regulations in a bill that we’ll have months to work on rather than days or weeks.”
Any legislation, with the craziness currently gripping the United States is going to be an issue. First and foremost is the fact that the Louisiana legislature has under one month to conduct all of the states' business, much of which will be coronavirus-focused. The Louisiana Senate wraps up their current session on June 1 and after that will be consumed by the 2020 election campaign.
Secondly, Bills that deal with any taxation, under Louisiana law are taken up in odd-years – even years are non-fiscal with odd years taking up fiscal priorities. That means that sports betting and the taxation that comes along with it will have to be debated and finalized in 2021 or wait until 2023.
And finally, is the political make-up of Louisiana which is divided up into parishes – each of which will have to approve legal sports betting via referendum for the platform to move forward. If a 2018 referendum on the viability of fantasy sports in the state is any indication, sports betting in Louisiana has a real shot at becoming a reality. In that referendum, fantasy sports were approved by a parishes vote of 47-17.
It was a bit of a surprise to see legislation introduced in Louisiana so early in the legislative session. Rest assured that there is still a ton of work to do before it is finalized. Lawmakers will have to pass the Bill presented to them, voters in most parishes will have to vote "Yes" in November, rules and regulations for the platform will have to be agreed upon. Then all will have to pass with a two-thirds majority in the Louisiana legislature.
Is it possible? Sure, but the last attempt to discuss the matter turned into a bit of a disaster among lawmakers. Legal sports betting likely won't happen this year with everything going on in the world and with the election just over 6 months out. But steps have been taken toward welcoming the platform in Louisiana which is more than we can say for yesterday.
Level playing field
There is no shortage of legal gambling opponents in the state of Louisiana but those voices are slowly being drowned out by proponents that seen the benefit of the tax dollars in the state. Those in support just want to see Louisiana on a level playing field with the states around them that have already legalized sports betting.
Louisiana, after Tuesday’s move in the legislature is one step closer to being able to wager on their favorite team. Now the people and individual parishes will hopefully have their chance to weigh in. 2020 won’t see legal sports betting in Louisiana but the 2021 is definitely gaining steam.