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What’s in Store for Louisiana Sports Bettors

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What’s in Store for Louisiana Sports Bettors
The LSU Tigers take the field. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

Tuesday night’s US Election proved consequential for the sports betting industry in the state of Louisiana. 55 of 64 parishes approved wagering within their respective jurisdictions, most of which came in overwhelming fashion. It seems like a logical step for a state whose citizens are spending millions per month on sports betting in neighboring states and with offshore sportsbooks. Plus, there are currently more than twenty casinos that operate in the state, including thirteen on riverboats and four on racetracks – the gambling industry isn’t exactly new to Louisiana.

While there appears on the surface to be a clear mandate for pro-sports betting legislators, just when the citizens of Louisiana will be able to bet on the New Orleans Saints, the Pelicans and the LSU Tigers is still very much up in the air. While the state could reasonably see legal sports bets in 2021, there is widespread acknowledgement that 2022 may be a more likely scenario for the platform.

Taking Notes From the 2018 Vote on DFS

Voters in Louisiana had their say on daily fantasy sports (DFS) in 2018 and 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved Louisiana the platform to go forward. Politics and pushback from the 17 dissenting parishes have so far bogged down the process of legalization.

DFS is still not legal in Louisiana, although throngs of bettors are still taking part in leagues each and every week. Just when DFS is legalized is still up in the air with seemingly no rush to come up with a decision either way on the platform.

It serves as a cautionary tale about the speed at which a legal sports betting industry in Louisiana will proceed.

Parish Intrigue

55 of Louisiana’s parishes approved legal sports betting platforms, nine voted it down on Tuesday night. A look at how the vote played out showed a similar path to the one taken by DFS betting in 2018.

The major population centers of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and Shreveport in the northwestern corner, home of existing major hotels and resorts were in support of the platform coming to their jurisdictions while the nine that voted against it were in the more conservative north-central Louisiana. Those north-central parishes have carried a big stick so far with respect to DFS and could do again with legal sports betting.

It remains to be seen just how the no-votes will affect the trajectory of legal sports betting in Louisiana but it all adds to the parish intrigue that has long been part of the state’s complicated political landscape.

Likely to Be a Slow Process

For those bettors in Louisiana that are hoping for a speedy launch will likely be disappointed in the statements that are coming from regulators in the state. One such regulator is Michael D. Noel, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board chairman. He seems convinced that Louisiana won’t see legal sports betting until 2022.

“It’s just the way the process works,” Noel said. “The Legislature has to lay out the framework, and then the rule-making process is a four-to-six-month process. Once that happens, the entities that want to participate will have to apply and get licensed.”

While that is partially true, some states have legislated, regulated and launched within six months. It doesn’t appear there is an appetite for such an expedited plan in Louisiana.

On the Line

Tax revenue alone for the state of Louisiana is estimated to be about $300 million per year. A group that had fought hard for legalization prior to November 3, “Louisiana Wins” identified schools, roads, and bridges as the biggest beneficiaries of the tax revenue generated. Anything to help out the struggling coffers in the state that like so many has been decimated by COVID-19.

The group hasn’t been shy about mentioning the amount of sports betting money flowing across state lines and benefitting other jurisdictions. The campaign recently stated that: “We are losing as much as $330 million of revenue, even as our residents cross the border to Arkansas and Mississippi for legalized sports betting there.”

So, the pressure is on in the state of Louisiana to get something done. The voters have spoken loudly. The next legislative session begins in April. Unfortunately, it seems that there will be other pressing issues to deal with in the state before legal sports betting is addressed. Stay tuned Louisiana – this fight could go either way.