Louisiana Sports Betting Legislation Approved by Senate

Louisiana Sports Betting Legislation Approved by Senate
© USA Today

Louisiana is getting closer to becoming the third state this year to put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve sports betting.

The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to put the question to legalize sports wagering before voters in the state’s 64 parishes. South Dakota and Maryland have already approved legislation putting the sports betting question before voters in the fall.

RELATED: Learn more about Louisiana gaming

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 passed Thursday by the Senate.

HB 357, authored by Rep. Tanner D. Magee, is identical to the Senate bills. It was considered by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice on Wednesday. If the House passes the bill, the legislation will go to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature. He was re-elected in November and has been a gambling proponent.

During the House committee hearing Wednesday some people wore face masks and the microphone was sprayed with disinfectant between each speaker who gave testimony. Some chairs were taped off, but people didn’t seem to be sitting six feet apart in the hearing room. There was a lot of discussion on HB 140.

The Louisiana legislature reconvened last week after temporarily adjourning March 16, less than a week into the current session that is scheduled to end June 1. The legislature will likely have to prioritize measures to deal with coronavirus and economic shortfalls from businesses and casinos being closed since mid-March.

Louisiana Falls Behind Other States

A year ago, similar legislation was introduced in the House and Senate, but it ran into opposition in the House after sailing through the Senate. The bill would have created parish-level voter referendums just like those sought by the current legislation.

In Louisiana, state tax issues are acted upon by the legislature in odd years, meaning sports betting would have to be heard in 2021. The state’s 64 individual parishes must vote on allowing sports betting before it can move to the legislature to set regulations. Getting support from voters in November would give the legislation momentum for sports betting to begin in late 2021 or early 2022.

While gambling already exists in the form of casinos, riverboats and video poker machines, Louisiana has struggled to get sports betting in front of voters. Neighboring Mississippi and Arkansas have legalized sports betting, though both states have it only in-person at brick-and-mortar casinos.

Other States Will Ask Voters to Approve Sports Betting

South Dakota lawmakers passed legislation in early March to put the question of legalizing sports betting in the state on the November ballot. Voters will decide whether to allow sports betting in Deadwood, where all of the casinos in the state are located.

Since adding sports betting requires a change to South Dakota’s constitution, it has to be approved by voters. In addition to Deadwood’s facilities, tribal casinos would also be allowed to offer sports betting if voters pass the measure. In 2014, 57% of voters passed an amendment that made it legal for keno, craps and roulette to be played in Deadwood, according to the Associated Press.

Later in March, the Maryland General Assembly approved a sports betting bill then adjourned its legislative session weeks early because of the coronavirus pandemic. If voters approve the measure in November, the legislature would have to work out how sports betting would be implemented. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan last week let legislation calling for the referendum become law without his signature. /p>

Arkansas and Colorado are two other states who have approved sports betting with a referendum. Arkansas voters approved sports betting at physical sportsbooks in November 2018 and the state took its first bet in July 2019. Colorado voters approved Proposition DD, which legalized sports betting, last November and the state took its first sports bet on May 1. The law in Colorado includes mobile and online sports betting.

If voters approve and their legislatures can set regulations, including the process for approving licenses, Maryland, South Dakota and Louisiana sports bets could start happening in 2021.