Louisiana House Approves Sports Betting Ballot Legislation

Louisiana House Approves Sports Betting Ballot Legislation
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Sports betting is getting closer to being in the hands of Louisiana voters.

The Louisiana House of Representatives on Friday voted 73-23 to approve legislation to put the question to legalize sports wagering before voters in the state’s 64 parishes. Legislation had previously passed the Senate overwhelmingly.

RELATED: Learn more about Louisiana gaming

Once the chambers pass each other’s legislation — and the bills are similar — the issue goes to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature. He was re-elected in November and has been a gambling proponent.

Louisiana will become the third state to have sports betting on the November 2020 ballot. South Dakota and Maryland have already approved legislation putting the sports betting question before voters in the fall.

But even if voters approve in Louisiana, it will still take some time before bettors are able to place a wager. The bill calls for the legislature to pass state laws "providing for the licensing, regulation, and taxation" of sports betting.

Tax Issues Come Up in Odd Years in Louisiana

Tax issues are only taken up by the Louisiana legislature in odd-numbered years, so if lawmakers can't come to agreement in 2021, it would further delay the implementation of sports betting.

Daily Fantasy Sports games were legalized by parish voters in 2018, but the legislature did not reach agreement on regulations in 2019. Since it involved taxation, a DFS bill before the Senate this year was deferred to either later this year or early in 2021.

Gambling already exists in Louisiana. There are casinos, riverboats and video poker machines. But Louisiana has struggled to get sports betting in front of voters. Many land and riverboat casinos in the state reopened this week with capacity limits.

Neighboring Mississippi and Arkansas have legalized sports betting, though both states have it only in-person at brick-and-mortar casinos. Casinos in both states reopened this week.

The Senate & House Bills

SB 130, sponsored by Sen. Cameron Henry, was passed 29-8 by the Senate. The referendum will ask voters the following question: Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish, yes or no. A similar bill, SB 378, from Sen. Ronnie Johns, was also passed overwhelmingly by the Senate.

HB 357, authored by Rep. Tanner D. Magee and slightly amended in committee, was the bill passed Friday and is similar to the Senate bills. The House bill also made clear that the Louisiana Gaming Control Board will oversee expanded gaming.

The Louisiana legislature temporarily adjourned on March 16, less than a week into the current session, before returning several weeks ago. The session is scheduled to end June 1.

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