Louisiana Sports Betting Bill Passes Through State Senate
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Before the calendar turned to May 2019, the Louisiana state Senate passed the action on a sports betting bill to the state’s House of Representatives.
The 39-member body voted to approve SB153 by a count of 24-15 on Tuesday. The bill is very similar to the legislation that legalized daily fantasy sports in the state, in that it would call for a parish-by-parish approach to legalizing sports betting through a voter referendum this fall.
Going forward, the bill’s chances in the House are unclear.
House Next Up in Sports Betting Discussion
The House currently has its own sports betting bill, HB469, which was referred to the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on April 8, but no action has been taken on it since then.
The only other action in the House on the topic currently is a companion bill (HB587) which would set the structure of the fees and taxes to be paid by sportsbooks in the state. That bill has yet to be scheduled for a vote in the House’s Ways and Means Committee, despite requests by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Marino (I-Gretna) to do so.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) has drafted his own bill to that effect.
The tax bill needed to complete the regulation of sports betting might also face an obstacle back in the Senate. Under the state’s code, tax bills require a two-thirds majority to pass. Such a bill would need at least two more votes in its favor than SB153 got on Tuesday.
The measure by Republican Sen. Danny Martiny would limit bets to Louisiana's 16 casinos and four racetracks, including by mobile phone in areas restricted to patrons who are at least 21 years old.https://t.co/8aYK4SacD9 pic.twitter.com/g3XFmikzT0— NBC Local 33 News (@WVLANBCLocal33) May 1, 2019
According to the Times-Picayune, SB153 sponsor Sen. Danny Martiny wants to see a 12% rate levied. The Baton Rouge Advocate reports Martiny wants most of that revenue go toward funding for early childhood education. That’s a detail which has appealed to Gov. John Bel Edwards, but it’s uncertain whether it would be enough to get his signature if a tax bill should arrive on his desk.
The biggest obstacle to the enacting of any sports betting legislation may not have anything to do with the tax rate or how the revenue is distributed, however. The Louisiana Family Forum, a nonprofit organization that holds sway over many voters in the state and therefore members of the House seeking reelection, opposes the legalization of sports betting in the state.
Martiny addressed those concerns during his address to the full Senate floor Tuesday.
“Like it or not, it’s here and it’s going to be here whether we legalize it or not,” Martiny stated.
Key Provisions Emerge for Louisiana Betting
SB153 would also direct a portion of the revenue created to a fund for the treatment of problem gambling, which backers hope will help overcome objections from opponents.
The bill further bans wagers on high school competitions but allows betting on college sports. LSU football and men’s basketball are the most popular sporting events with fan attention even eclipsing interest in the state beyond its respective NBA and NFL franchises, the New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints.
As the House begins a discussion on SB 153 the obstacles to its being put on Bel Edwards’ desk are clear. Whether the bill can clear those hurdles remains to be seen.