Louisiana Sports Betting Prodded By Southern Neighbors

Louisiana Sports Betting Prodded By Southern Neighbors

Louisiana has considered sports betting legalization for several years. The sports gambling prospects of their southern neighbors may (finally) push a stalled Louisiana bill past the finish line.

As Mississippi records millions in sports betting wagers and Arkansas positions itself to do the same, Louisiana officials say there’s more impetus than ever to legalize wagering in the Bayou State. State lawmakers held hearings on the topic earlier this month and a growing contingent hope to prioritize the issue when legislators return to Baton Rouge for the 2019 legislative session.

State. Sen Danny Martiny told the Shreveport Times the state is losing revenue to Mississippi – and more states could soon attract bettors across state lines.

"We're trying to figure out how to get up on our knees, and they're sprinting. My goal was to compete with you and stop you from taking our people."

Martiny championed a bill last legislative session to legalize sports betting, but it failed to pass through committee. Now a more vocal group of lawmakers hope the lost revenue potential will awaken lawmakers to accept, and pass, a bill by the start of next year.

Louisiana Gambling Falls Behind

The stalled sports betting legislation is the latest development in the circuitous history of gambling for the state.

Louisiana still has a constitutional ban on gambling, but instead of repealing the clause it has incrementally chipped away at the prohibition. Lawmakers and voters approved more than a dozen riverboat casinos across the state’s waterways in the past 20 years. Along with a land-based facility in New Orleans and several Native American casinos, Louisiana has one of the most robust gambling infrastructures in the country.

Despite the revenue success of the casinos, lawmakers have been more hesitant to expand other forms of gambling.

Louisiana is one of a handful of states that prohibit daily fantasy game providers like DraftKings and FanDuel. Lawmakers finally approved the games earlier this year, but now voters will determine whether to allow their operation on a parish-by-parish basis as part of the 2018 midterm election ballots.

That means Louisiana will almost assuredly become the only state that permits the game in certain jurisdictions but not others. Even once approved at the parish level, lawmakers still have to approve and implement further taxation and regulatory policies.

Sports betting has also taken an unusual trajectory. Though poker, slots and other popular wagering options are legal, lawmakers have not wanted to open up the state to sports betting. In a comparatively gambling-friendly state, legislators have snuffed out any sports wagering bill.

The success across state lines may finally overcome that opposition.

Mississippi Leads Southern Sports Betting

Like Louisiana, Mississippi has an expansive network of gambling destinations. But more often than not, the Magnolia State has pushed gambling innovation while its southwestern neighbor has played catch up.

Sports betting has made this more apparent than ever.

Mississippi lawmakers legalized sports betting even before the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban. When the court announced in May that it had invalidated the ban, Mississippi moved to take bets. After several months of regulatory checks and licenses, the state became the fourth in the nation to take a legal wager and the first to do so in the southern U.S.

In August, the state recorded more than $10 million in wagers. That figure, propelled by the beginning of the 2018 football season, more than tripled in September.

Mississippi tourism and gambling officials know a significant portion of that money came from Louisiana residents. So do Louisiana lawmakers. As Mississippi was garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes last month, Louisiana was missing out on a new revenue stream.

There could soon be another threat for Louisiana tax dollars further north.

Arkansas voters will soon vote on whether or not to allow the state’s first-ever casinos. Among other gambling expansion measures, the referendum on the upcoming midterm election ballot in Arkansas would also legalize sports betting.

With two neighbors possibly taking sports bets, and dollars, Louisiana lawmakers may finally act to keep that money within state lines and used to bolster its own financial bottom line.

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