Sports Wagering is on the Ballot in Louisiana: Here’s What We Know
Despite a significant effort to legalize sports wagering in Louisiana during the 2019 Legislative Session, sports wagering remains illegal in the Bayou State. Many expect that to change soon.
In June 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law Senate Bill 130, which will give voters in each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes the ability to approve sports wagering on a parish-by-parish basis. Upon being signed by the governor, Senate Bill 130 became Act No. 215, and as a result, sports wagering will be on the ballot on November 3. Unlike past years in which sports wagering failed to make it to the governor’s desk, let alone the ballot box, it will soon be up to the eligible voters in Louisiana to decide whether to legalize sports wagering in their respective parishes. Many observers expect that the parish-specific focus of Act No. 215 will result in the legalization of sports wagering in Louisiana’s most populous parishes, where sports wagering has generally been viewed favorably.
Even if sports wagering is soon legalized in one or more parishes, it will be some time before sports wagering can actually take place in Louisiana. Indeed, the Louisiana Legislature and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board would first need to implement licensing and tax-related rules before sports wagering can be offered. For example, the Legislature would need to enact a tax structure for sports wagering, which likely would not occur until the 2021 Regular Session at the earliest because tax-related bills can only be considered in odd-numbered years, unless brought before the Legislature during a special session. The Louisiana Gaming Control Board would also need to prescribe the methods and procedures for calculating gross sports wagering revenues, the daily counting and recording of cash and cash equivalents received from sports wagering, and the amount of cash reserves to be maintained by facilities offering sports wagering to their patrons. Aside from tax-related issues, the Board would also need to prescribe application forms to be completed by persons or entities interested in offering sports wagering to the public as well as additional rules and regulations governing the conduct of sports wagering in Louisiana. Indeed, should the voters in a particular parish approve of sports wagering, the Board would then be tasked with adopting all the rules necessary to implement, administer, and regulate sports wagering, including those setting forth the standards and procedures to govern sports wagering and those who offer it.
Proponents of Act No. 215 maintain that sports wagering has the potential to be a significant revenue generator for the state of Louisiana. But determining how much revenue could result from sports wagering is a difficult proposition. Should sports wagering pass in one or more Louisiana parishes on November 3, a major factor in the revenue-generation equation is whether the Legislature and Board will enact regulations that allow sports wagering to take place remotely over the internet via electronic devices. The alternative, which is disfavored by many proponents of Act No. 215, is to follow Mississippi’s approach and allow sports wagering only in brick-and-mortar casinos. Several commentators have predicted that allowing sports wagering to take place remotely—and not exclusively in Louisiana’s land-based and riverboat casinos—could result in hundreds of millions in additional tax revenue for the state. Only time will tell whether sports wagering soon becomes legal in Louisiana and, if so, whether the Louisiana Legislature and the Gaming Control Board decide to authorize sports wagering outside of brick-and-mortar casinos.