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Sports Betting In Louisiana? First Hurdle Crossed

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There's one hurdle down and several more to go for legal sports betting in Louisiana. Earlier this week, the state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-1 to allow sports betting in the state.

The lone “no” vote came from Sen. Karen Carter Peterson D-New Orleans, who admitted earlier this year that she battles with gambling addiction.

 She isn’t anti-gambling but does want to ensure a portion of the revenues goes to the state’s compulsive gambling fund.

If the bill ultimately is approved by the state Legislature, the electorate would decide the fate of sports betting on a parish-by-parish basis. Officials say the earliest residents could be placing bets in January 2020.

Louisiana is getting serious about the bill almost a year after the U.S. Supreme court overturned longtime law making it possible for individual states to pursue sports betting. Eight states currently have legal sports betting with more than 30 states with bills introduced in legislatures.

The Legislature is taking up new gambling laws and tax structures a few weeks after Spectrum Gaming Group issued a 260-page needed to implement changes to better compete with Mississippi, what already has approved sports betting.

The report says tax rates is one reason Louisiana casinos are at a disadvantage to those in Mississippi. For example, a Louisiana casino has a 26 percent tax rate compared to an almost 12 percent tax rate at a casino in Bay St. Louis area.

According to Spectrum, the New Orleans market is losing more that $255 million to Mississippi annually.

The report cites sports betting as something that could bring young people into Louisiana casinos, which also sees a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in food and beverage sales during major sporting events.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, could possibly generate $40 million to $60 million annually for the state. Mississippi has earned less than half of what was projected as it’s first year with sports betting comes to a close.

"Sports betting is not the solution to all our fiscal problems, but I know if we don't do it we will lose money," Martiny said in the Monroe News Star. "If nothing else it stops some of the bleeding from people going to Mississippi and Arkansas."

Martiny would like to see the bulk of tax revenue from sports betting be put toward early childhood education with a smaller percentage to tackle helping those with addictive gambling issues.

The bill would allow betting on both professional and collegiate sports at the state’s four horse tracks that have slot machines, 15 riverboat casinos an at Harrah’s in New Orleans. The minimum age to place a bet would be 21-years-old.

What it doesn’t have is a full mobile component as a few in the Legislature would like. Martiny, who believes betting from anywhere in the state from a smartphone would doom his bill, agreed to confine mobile sports betting to the “gambling areas” of riverboat casinos, racetracks and Harrah’s in New Orleans, which is more restrictive than neighboring states, according to the Times-Picayune.

Also not allowed in the bill: betting on video games, electronic sports events and high school games.