Louisiana Daily Fantasy Sports Betting Approved By Governor

Louisiana Daily Fantasy Sports Betting Approved By Governor
© USA Today

Louisiana residents have been clamoring for legal Daily Fantasy Sports wagering. On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards effectively granted their wish.

Edwards signed a bill establishing an 8% tax rate for online Daily Fantasy Sports betting, clearing one of the final hurdles for wagering that had been approved by voters in 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes in 2018. The legislation was among a group of tax bills designed as a coronavirus relief package and it followed gaming regulations approved by Edwards last month.

Setting the tax rate raises the prospect of DFS wagering becoming a reality in Louisiana by football season — should there be a season. Daily Fantasy Sports gambling would join a rich history of gaming in Louisiana, which already includes pari-mutuel betting at racetracks, poker, bingo and casino games.

Louisiana voters will decide whether to adopt legal sports betting in November. The issue will be decided parish by parish, just as DFS was. Bel Edwards signed that bill into law in June.

Tax Rate, Regulations Now Set

The DFS bill, Louisiana House Bill 64, was introduced June 10 by state Rep. John Stefanski. The 8 percent tax on net revenue would help fund the state’s early childhood education program and is expected to produce several hundred thousand dollars per year, according to a financial analysis conducted this year by the Louisiana Legislature.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the Louisiana House in June, before receiving unanimous approval from the state Senate. Edwards’ signature Tuesday sets the stage for most Louisiana residents to begin wagering on DFS through sites such as Fanduel and DraftKings.

The approval follows earlier passage of a bill which established regulations for fantasy sports in the state. The state mandated that operators must apply for a license through the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and pay a $100,000 application fee. Also, all players much be at least 21. Edwards signed that bill into law on June 11.

Two-Year Saga Comes To End

Getting to this point, though, was not as simple as a stroke of the governor’s pen. The Louisiana House passed Daily Fantasy Sports bills in 2019, but lawmakers clashed over regulation and the legislation died in the state Senate without being presented for a vote. Legislative approval of the 8% tax rate for Daily Fantasy Sports came in a special session, undertaken by legislators primarily to address a $900 million state budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus.

Edwards’ signature Tuesday promised the end to a long wait for residents of 47 Louisiana parishes that had approved fantasy sports betting in 2018. The state's six most populated parishes (East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, Caddo, St. Tammany and Lafayette) all supported the measure, which backers of Daily Fantasy Sports viewed as approval from a majority of residents. Louisiana is now poised to become the first state to allow games in some parts of the state, but not others.

Though single-game wagering remains illegal for now, approval of DFS in most of the state gives Louisiana another needed taxable revenue stream at a time when the state is struggling to recover financially from the coronavirus. It also promises to help the tide of dollars from sports betting Louisiana makes flow into neighboring state Mississippi - which OK’d the practice in 2018.