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Louisiana's initial sports betting numbers show big return

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BATON ROUGE - Sports betting is off to profitable start in Louisiana. 

More than $27 million in sports bets were placed in the state over the first two months, and casinos collected $5 million in that time.

"Sport betting interest has been unbelievable since the legislature approved it last spring" said Ronnie Johns, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Board.

A deal was approved Thursday for Casino Queen Holdings, an Illinois company, to buy the
Hollywood Casino and Belle of Baton Rouge in the capital city.

"Obviously, this is such a sports-crazy area," said Terry Downey, president of Casino Queen. "Sports was definitely very important, the potential we saw in Baton Rouge."

Plans are in the works for major additions and renovations at both properties, including new casinos at the Belle and Hollywood with sports books.

Casino Queen has $72 million in new construction for the Hollywood alone, with an expanded sports book facility opening sometime next year.

"Right across the hallway, we'll have a big sports venue, restaurant, bar where people can watch games on big screens," Downey said.

The renovation at the Belle is still in the works, but it will be extensive.

"We're just excited about what's going to be developed here in downtown Baton Rouge," Johns said.

Twenty-five percent of the state's revenue from sports betting will go to fund early education.

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