On Monday, the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has signed off on the first of a pair of bills that are supposed to usher in regulated retail and online sports betting in The Pelican State. In last year’s November ballot, Louisiana along with Maryland and South Dakota had their residents vote in the legalization of a form of sports betting within state lines.
Of the three, Maryland crossed the finish line fastest, and Maryland’s regulated sports betting law came into effect recently, on June 1st. On the other hand, South Dakota expects to launch its legal sports betting market by the fall of this year, after Gov. Kristi Noem signed the state’s regulated sports betting bill into law towards the end of March.
In Louisiana, voters in 55 of the 64 parishes in the state voted ‘Yes’ to the question of sports betting in November 2020. Thus, when the entire legalization process is complete, only the parishes that voted in favor of regulated sports betting last year will enjoy the activity. The 55 parishes host 64% of residents in the Pelican State.
House Bill 697: The Sports Betting Tax Bill
The bill that Gov. Edwards signed into law on Monday, June 7th, is House Bill 697. It was introduced in April and sponsored by John M. Stefanski, the State Representative of District 42. For one, the newly signed law grants the Louisiana Lottery Corporation authority to conduct sports wagering in the parishes that agreed to the introduction of sports betting.
Further, HB 697 also has clauses that levy a 10% tax on the net proceeds collected by retail gambling establishments, whereas online and mobile sports wagering will attract 15% taxation. Operators will be required to part with a $250,000 application fee for sports wagering, and after approval, the operators will pay $500,000 for a five-year license. Per the bill, sports betting providers will also have to acquire a special license whose application fee costs $100,000, with the license itself demanding a $250,000 fee upon approval.
The Louisiana Lottery Corporation shall also have the capacity to team up with a sports betting provider in the 55 parishes. However, in such a case, the Lottery body will be required to pay the state 30% of the net wagering proceeds. HB 697 indicates that the funds collected here will be channeled to “expenses and costs deemed necessary to administer sports wagering”. The recently signed bill also sets up a timeline for the license applications, permits, taxation, and the associated fees.
Additionally, HB 697 creates a “Sports Wagering Enforcement Fund” which falls under the Louisiana state treasury. The fund will be financing any expenses required by La. Gaming Control Board, Department of Justice, and the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, to successfully perform the duties under the provisions of the new law. The state’s legislature will appropriate the said fund. Finally, through this law, “sports wagering” has been added to all existing criminal codes of conduct that regulate gambling in the state.
Senate Bill 247: Louisiana’s Sports Betting Plan
Governor Edward’s rubberstamp on HB 697 comes just a few days after the House approved an accompanying sports betting bill, Senate Bill 247 by a 78-15 margin. The doors of legal sports wagering in The Pelican State can’t be unlocked without SB 247. Sponsored by Senate President Patrick Page Cortex, SB 247 was also introduced in April.
Should it be okayed like its counterpart – HB 697, it will set up the main regulatory guidelines for regulated sports betting in Louisiana, steered by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. 20 licenses will be available for operating sports betting, with the Board giving priority to the state’s only land-based casino, four racetracks, and 15 riverboat casinos. In addition, license holders will be permitted to conduct retail and mobile sports betting services. Each licensee will also be allowed to have up to two online skins. Bettors will also be allowed to register in person or online upon market launch.
Currently, SB 247 is still undergoing amendments in the House and shall be sent back to the Senate for approval before finally being forwarded to the governor for his signature. Some of the House’s amendments presently under consideration include options to allow cash wagering and including sports wagering mechanisms in the state’s definition of gaming devices.
Senate Bill 142: Where the Money from Regulated Sports Betting Will Go
While HB 697 and SB 247 are the most important for the legalization of sports betting, an accompanying bill, Senate Bill 142, is also part of the regulation process. The bill was introduced in April as well and is under the sponsorship of Senator Rick Ward of District 17.
Louisiana’s House Appropriations Committee advanced this bill on the same day that Gov. Edwards signed the tax bill. The House panel made amendments on how the tax money from regulated sports betting will be allocated as follows:
- 60% – General Fund
- 25% – Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund
- 12% – proportionately distributed to each parish based on the tax contribution
- 2% – Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund
- 1% – Sports Wagering Purse Supplemental Fund
It is interesting to note how swiftly HB 697, SB 247, and SB 142 have cruised through the legislative process with hardly any opposition. Yet, daily fantasy sports betting, which received more or less the same voter approval in 2018, has dragged in the same legislature. After all that time, DFS is expected to finally go live right around the fall of this year, just like regulated sports wagering.