Louisiana’s new legislative session is just days away and it seems that lawmakers will take another shot at legalizing sports betting after an unsuccessful attempt last year.
Two State Senators have pre-filed bills calling for the introduction of legal sports betting in Louisiana, it has emerged.
Sen. Cameron Henry has pre-filed Senate Bill 130, while Sen. Kirk Talbot has pre-filed SB 66. Both pieces call for a statewide item in the upcoming 2020 election that would provide Louisiana residents with the opportunity to decide whether to approve or reject the legalization of athletic gambling.
Under the two bills, sports betting would only be permitted in parishes to approve the proposed item after state legislation “providing for the licensing, regulation, and taxation of such activities and operations” is enforced.
Under Louisiana’s Constitution, all new forms of gambling proposed by lawmakers are required to be approved by state residents in parish referendums.
The state’s legislative session is set to convene at noon on March 9. This means that no action on sports betting can be expected prior that day. In addition, even if this year’s push at legalizing sports betting succeeds, first sportsbooks are expected to go live at some point in 2021.
Previous Efforts at Bringing Legal Sports Betting
Several Louisiana lawmakers brought the sports betting issue up for discussion during the 2019 legislative session, but their attempts failed.
A proposal similar to the ones pre-filed by the two State Senators fell through in the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee last year. Committee members voted 15-6 against the piece of legislation, effectively killing any momentum the debate over athletic gambling might have gained during the 2019 legislative session.
The negative vote on the bill came after the Louisiana Casino Trade Association, a trade body representing the state’s casinos, withdrew its support for the proposed legalization of sports betting in the state.
The association’s head, Wade Duty, said at the time that all the amendments loaded onto the piece of legislation made it “untenable” and that lawmakers “have put enough baggage on this plane that it will not get airborne.”
The bill earmarked the majority of fees, fines, and revenue collected from sports betting at the state’s casinos for Louisiana’s cash-strapped Early Child Education programs that support residents that cannot afford child care.
If Louisiana’s effort fails this year, that would place the state well behind neighboring Mississippi and Arkansas and it would keep on losing wagering money to these two states. Mississippi legalized and launched sports betting just a few months after the US Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on the practice.
Arkansas legalized sports betting in late 2018 as part of sweeping gambling expansion effort and first legal wagering operations went live in mid-2019.