Louisiana gamers will have to wait to bet on sports
BATON ROUGE - Sports betting is now a possibility nationwide, but gamers in Louisiana will have to wait. Legislation that would have given voters the option to allow this type of gambling in their parish is failing.
“I was really just trying to get ahead of the Supreme Court, and it didn't happen,” said Sen. Danny Martiny, the sponsor of Senate Bill 266.
The legislation fell flat in a Senate Finance Committee meeting.
“The committee apparently voted against it because they didn't like sports betting,” said Committee Chair Sen. Eric LaFleur.
LaFleur says the original bill came to the Finance Committee because it had some upfront costs. But seeing opposition to that, the cost of the bill was taken out.
“Unfortunately the committee again voted against it, not because of cost, they voted against it because they didn't want sports betting. That’s out of the ordinary for us because the Finance Committee deals with the cost of the bill, not the merits of the bill,” said LaFleur.
“You have a number of legislators that just don't want to vote, in their mind, to expand gaming, and this would expand gaming,” added Louisiana Gaming Board Chairman Ronnie Jones.
Now, the state is behind. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that barred gambling on sports, making it the state’s decision. Louisiana lawmakers are not doing that, but those in a neighboring state are.
“Mississippi right now will be the only state in the south that will permit sports betting,” said Jones.
Sen. Martiny says the question isn't if people will bet on sports, but how. Either illegally, or in a neighboring state.
“You know how much money [Louisiana] gets out of that? Zero,” said Martiny.
The bill could be taken up again during an upcoming special session, but Gov. John Bel Edwards says the legislation isn't ready.
“It’s my understanding that before it would be implemented you would have to have parish referendum on it, and so we wouldn't know when we left the special session whether any parish would approve it. Secondly, you have to come up with a way to regulate it and make sure it’s being taxed appropriately,” said Edwards. “Were trying to fix a cliff that hits June 30, and probably no revenue associated with that bill would come in before the end of the fiscal year anyway.”
Sen. Martiny says he wants to bring the legislation back up next year.
"We'll just be at least a year behind," he said.