Louisiana Sports Betting Sidelined as Mississippi Takes Off

Louisiana Sports Betting Sidelined as Mississippi Takes Off

Louisiana and Mississippi have embraced gambling expansion in recent years more so than any other southern state. With a federal ban on sports betting now repealed, some Louisiana lawmakers are worried Mississippi will begin to separate itself from its neighbor in revenue opportunities for one of its most important industries.

Two Mississippi casinos took the state’s first-ever legal sports bets Aug. 1. Several more followed days later and up to two dozen could be taking bets in the coming weeks. Baring a legislative hail Mary, Louisiana’s casinos will not take any bets this year – or in the foreseeable future.

This has sparked worry among gambling advocates in the Pelican State. In an interview with the Monroe News Star, state Sen. Danny Martiny said Louisiana’s gambling industry could slip behind its eastern neighbor.

"It's not so much how much money the industry and state would gain (through additional taxes), but how much we're going to lose," Martiny said.

Legislative Efforts Fall Short

Louisiana is one of the few southern states with a network of riverboat casinos as well as a land-based facility. In the 2018 legislative session it also approved placement of a ballot referendum for fantasy sports expansion, as well as permission for the state’s existing casinos and horse tracks to expand their respective gaming options.

Along with these measures, Martiny championed SB 266, which would have allowed sports betting at the state-regulated Harrah’s casinos in New Orleans along with the 15 riverboat casinos around the state. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the bill didn’t specify plans on how to tax sports bets. it would have also potentially opened up betting at more than 1,000 other locations, including restaurants and bars with video poker machines.

As it was discussed in the Senate Finance Committee, Martiny tried to assuage concerns about the bill and planned to narrow the list of eligible facilities to take bets. He reportedly implored colleagues to take up the bill, warning them that Mississippi, which easily passed its sports betting laws earlier in the year, could siphon away revenue for Louisiana residents and tourists looking to place a bet.

With trepidation toward any further gambling expansion to being with, as well as concerns about implementation and associated costs with the bill, the Finance Committee shot it down in a 6-3 vote.

The economic impact on legal sports betting remains to be seen in Mississippi, but Martiny’s fears about falling behind have come to fruition. Biloxi, a top gaming destination on the east coast only 90 miles from New Orleans, will have multiple casinos and resorts taking wagers during football season, far and away the most popular time of the year for bettors. The state expects to reap millions in revenue from sports bets as well as the associated economic impacts from out-of-state residents patronizing restaurants, hotels and other tourism destinations.

Other States Advance Sports Betting

Mississippi may not be the only neighbor with sports betting aspirations.

Speaking to the News Star, Martiny predicted Arkansas would push for sports betting. Arkansas gambling expansion advocates are pushing for a referendum on the November 2018 ballot and Louisiana’s northern neighbor could, with voter approval, could create new casinos and allow sports betting by next year.

He also said Oklahoma, which is weighing sports betting expansion at its nearly 40 Native American casinos, could also further soak up gambling and tourism dollars, particularly from casinos in the northern part of Louisiana.

Gov. Jon Bel Edwards has all but snuffed out the prospect of gambling talk during any of the states special legislative sessions this year, so Martiny has vowed to push for it again during the regularly scheduled session in Baton Rouge next year. He told the media he worries his fellow lawmakers may remain opposed come 2019, but hoped to make progress before Louisiana falls further behind in sport betting expansion.

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