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Sports wagering bill advances in Louisiana legislature Tuesday

4 months 1 week 6 days ago Wednesday, May 06 2020 May 6, 2020 May 06, 2020 4:21 AM May 06, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate

A bill on sports wagering made its way out of a state legislative committee on Tuesday and if the bill gets continued support, after November Louisiana voters may have to decide if they want to allow sports wagering in their parish. 

According to The Advocate, the state Senate committee's Tuesday afternoon decision to approve two measures that would give voters the right to legalize betting on college and professional sports is a start to bolstering the bill's chances of survival.

The Senate Judiciary B Committee also approved a bill that would eliminate the tax that casinos pay on freebies they give to gamblers.

“If we will remove this tax, I believe it will increase revenue,” said state Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Bossier City, the sponsor of the measure, Senate Bill 332, which had been altered from its original intent.

What he didn't have was a fiscal note provided by the legislative staff that would gauge whether the measure would produce more state taxes.

State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said the gambling industry needs help because the pandemic-induced statewide closures have led to the shuttering of casino operations. 

Johns said the closures have led to a loss of at least $100 million so far in gambling taxes.

“They are our business partner now,” the committee’s chairman, state Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, said in a comment that illustrated why each of the pro-gambling bills sailed through his committee.

Only the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative faith-based group, registered any opposition, but its representative chose not to speak to the committee.

Johns and state Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, sponsored identical sports betting measures (Senate Bill 378 and Senate Bill 130) approved by the committee that would let voters decide on Nov. 3 whether to allow the wagering in their parish.

“It just gives our people the opportunity,” Smith said, “to vote it up or vote it down.”

Last year, the Senate approved a bill to legalize sports betting, but it failed to win passage in the House during a final-day standoff with supporters of a separate measure that would establish the taxes and regulations for yet another form of gambling, fantasy sports. 

Voters had legalized fantasy sports in 47 parishes in 2018, but Louisianians couldn't begin playing until the Legislature approved an additional step establishing the taxes and rules. And they never got the opportunity because that effort died at the same time as the push for sports betting last year.

“Everybody involved last year seems to be on the same page [now],” said Henry.

Peacock told the committee he couldn't try to legalize fantasy sports during the current legislative session because it would take a two-thirds vote to approve the taxes, and that threshold was too high.

The Senate Judiciary B Committee did not take up yet another gambling bill, Senate Bill 257.

It would allow video poker truck stops to win an exemption from having to sell a certain amount of fuel every month if a storm had shut it down and required a rebuild.

SB257’s sponsor, state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, said he plans to offer the bill at the committee’s next meeting.

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