Will Louisiana Sports Betting Vote Follow Path of DFS?

Will Louisiana Sports Betting Vote Follow Path of DFS?
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Editor’s note: One in a series of articles on U.S. sports betting and gaming issues that will appear on Nov. 3 ballots.

Along with making some important political choices on Nov. 3, Louisiana voters in the state’s 64 parishes will give a thumbs up or thumbs down on sports wagering.

In Louisiana, voters in each parish — a geographic political unit akin to a county in other states — get to decide whether they want gambling in their community.

Louisiana already has riverboat and land-based casinos as well as horse racing, but sports wagering is not part of the gaming landscape. The Nov. 3 referendum could change that, and probably will. Two years ago, a parish-by-parish vote on daily fantasy saw DFS approved in approved in 47 of the 64 parishes in 2018.

RELATED: Louisiana State Sen. Barrow Peacock Q&A on DFS, sports betting

Louisiana is one of six states that have gaming issues on the Nov. 3 ballot. Maryland, South Dakota, Colorado, Virginia and Nebraska are the others.

State Sen. Barrow Peacock, who has advocated on behalf of DFS and sports betting, said that a report by New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming indicated that full sports wagering, meaning at retail sportsbooks at the state’s casinos and race tracks plus online sports betting, could be worth up to $300 million a year to the state in additional tax dollars.

2020 Election Previews

“Of course, it has to be taxed at the appropriate level,” said Peacock, a Republican who represents the Shreveport-Bossier area.

However, would-be sports gamblers in Louisiana would be wise to temper their expectations. As already mentioned, in 2018 voters approved DFS in parishes that, in the aggregate, make up a large majority of the state’s population.

But folks in those places still can’t participate in daily fantasy contests because DFS had been held up by legislative wrangling over tax rates and other issues. And even though the most nettlesome debate point has been settled — the DFS tax rate has been established at 8% — there’s still no daily fantasy in Louisiana as the wait continues for some rules-making. The latest estimate on when the rules are finally in place and DFS can commence operations in Louisiana is “sometime this fall,” Peacock said.

Yes or No on Sports Betting

The upcoming ballot question on sports gambling is a simple Yes or No vote. However, even if a parish votes “Yes”, the drawn-out experience with DFS suggests that the election result will simply be the beginning of another process of hammering out parameters, regulations and, of course, a tax rate. All that will be tackled by the state legislature when it convenes in April 2021, and there certainly will be much to be considered.

For instance, there is no mention in the upcoming Louisiana referendum of whether sports wagering would be limited to physical locations, meaning the bricks-and-mortar casinos and horse race tracks, or also be available on the Internet. That will be one of the many questions the state legislature will address when it actually crafts legislation for sports wagering beginning in April.

If what has happened with DFS is a harbinger of what lies ahead for sports wagering in that state, it would be a reasonable expectation that a majority of voters in the state’s parishes will approve it. Peacock said many people thought they were voting on sports wagering in the DFS referendum in 2018. However, there’s also reason to be concerned that the state legislature will again be slow in moving ahead with something the voters have approved.

Time to Tax and Regulate Sports Betting

The Louisiana sports wagering referendum comes about as a result of Act 215, which was passed by the Louisiana legislature in the spring of 2020. A “Yes” vote is being pushed by an advocacy campaign called “Louisiana Wins.” The campaign emphasizes that Louisianans are already traveling to bet on sports in nearby states, such as Mississippi and Arkansas. Political headwinds have come from those who argue that gaming, in general, runs counter to their religious beliefs or social values.

“We have to somewhat understand that (sports gambling) is already being done and I think when it is regulated and taxed at an appropriate level, it is probably much better for the consumer who is participating in sports wagering than doing it in an unregulated environment,” Peacock said.

Peacock added that government oversight also allows for quicker recognition and intervention for those who exhibit disordered gambling behavior.

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