The state of Louisiana is threatening to become the next major player to welcome in a legal sports betting platform. Last week, two Bills were presented in the Louisiana Senate, discussed and ultimately voted on. Both Senate Bill 130 and Senate Bill 378 were approved by a pretty good majority and are acting as light on the horizon of the Louisiana sports betting industry.
Now the pieces of legislation are set to be sent to the House of Representatives for their own debate and vote. It is unclear as to the urgency the subject will be met with in that House but hopes are the topic can be taken up quickly and some official legislation could be put to the voting public sooner than later. What was once unlikely, sports betting has moved to the "hope stage" with the aim of making it a reality by the end of 2020.
What the Bills say
Senate Bill 130 was the first to be considered by the Louisiana Senate. Sponsored by Senator Cameron Henry and passed in the Senate by a vote of 23-9, the Bill's goal is to get the topic of legal sports betting on the 2020 ballot and for the people in the state to have the ultimate say. Each parish, under the Bill will have the power to decide on whether or not, sports betting is a fit for them.
Senate Bill 378, which also passed on Thursday dives a little deeper into the idea of the legal sports betting question for Louisiana. It addresses the rules and regulations that would be put in place if and when the platform launches in the state. The Bill effectively shows voters what the platform would look like – good and bad once it is up and running.
The fact that legislation has gone this far in Louisiana has to be considered a win. There is still a ton of work to do before it makes its way onto the November ballot but at least it’s a start. Having lawmakers discuss further should provide a nice boost for the industry and the idea of letting people decide the fate of legal sports betting is a step in the right direction.
Louisiana already has a pretty big casino scene – 53 casinos operate in the state and could easily take on sports betting. Gambling is entrenched in some Louisiana communities already making the chances of a platform indeed coming to light that much more possible.
Another "good" that came out of the two Bills is what you can vote on. Unlike some states that have adopted legal sports betting already, college sports betting would be fair game under the legislation. Betting on Olympics would also be allowed.
The Senate Bills passed Thursday were void of one major betting platform. Somehow, after all of the available data of states that have fully embraced legal sports betting already, the idea of mobile sports betting (outside of brick-and-mortar facilities) has been left out. Mobile apps have been responsible for between 85% and 90% of the impressive handles for three of the four most bet-friendly states, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
Mississippi has adopted a similar approach to mobile betting in which betting from your phone is legal, but only inside an actual brick-and mortar betting facility. It seems to have worked for them but sentiment out there is that Louisiana is missing the boat with regards to its limitations on mobile apps.
Another hurdle is Louisiana voters’ record on sports betting. Just getting the Bills passed is a tough ask for Louisiana already. Citizens in the state already voted against the legalization of Daily Fantasy Sports in 2018. 17 of 64 parishes struck down the opportunity, making Fantasy Sports technically illegal everywhere in the state. From a precedence perspective, this fact puts legal sports betting on shaky ground as legislators move toward a possible public vote.
Time certainly isn't on the side of the proponents of legal sports betting in Louisiana. To get the question of legal sports betting on the November 20 ballot, debate will have to be completed and language drawn up before June 10, the deadline for including anything on the November ballot.
That means debate will have to take place amidst a global pandemic, the House would have to quickly act on the enact language they want to present and the Governor would have to sign off on allowing voters to have their say. It is a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time for lawmakers. Who knows, with all of the other business to attend to, if it gets done.
Louisiana is on a path that not many thought they would be on. The idea of legal sports betting caught on quickly and the subject has been riding a wave ever since. It seems inevitable now that some sort of legal platform is coming to the state and that some serious tax dollars to mitigate budgetary issues will soon follow. Stay tuned to this situation – it is going to come down to the wire.