SPORTS | Gaming on Games
Sports betting, revenues coming to Louisiana
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
It took two years and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to neighboring states, but legal sports betting is coming to Louisiana.
In last month’s election, voters in 55 of the state’s 64 parishes approved sports betting within their borders, which could begin within two years. Statewide, the measure saw near two-to-one approval with 65% of the 1.3 million votes cast in favor. Locally, it received 76% of the vote in both Orleans and Jefferson parishes. While the bill did not have formal opposition, it wasn’t approved in nine parishes in north and central Louisiana.
With voter approval, the state Legislature now needs to hammer out several details, including whether sports books will be restricted to physical locations or allowed online and how they will be taxed and regulated.
Sports betting became legal on May 14, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that banned sports betting in most states. Since the law was reversed, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have joined Nevada — which allowed sports betting prior to the 1992 bill and was grandfathered in — in offering sports betting in some form. Seven states have approved sports betting but haven’t begun active operations, and six states have active bills on the issue.
Mississippi and Arkansas started offering sports betting in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and many Louisianans have crossed the border to place a bet.
Louisiana Wins, a 501(c)4 created “to educate voters on the importance of legalizing and taxing sports wagering,” said the state is losing as much as $330 million each year to Arkansas and Mississippi in legalized sports wagering. The organization promoted a state commissioned report by the Spectrum Gaming Group that suggests “Louisiana could generate between $237 million and $332 million in sports betting revenue annually.”
“There is no need for Louisiana residents to drive to Mississippi to place a legal bet and have those revenues go to Mississippi,” said State Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, author and one of four sponsors of the Louisiana Sports Betting Parish Measures. “Clearly times have changed when it comes to sports wagering. People are going to do this. People are going to bet on sports events. This allows them to do it in Louisiana, and we can capture some of that revenue.”
He’s right, and, while I’ve never been a gambler, I’m glad the measure has been approved.
Louisiana needs to raise all of the revenue it can without sticking a higher tax bill to the average citizen. Allowing sports betting won’t completely prevent it from crossing state lines, but it will keep a majority of it at home. In addition, it is likely to draw funds from Texas bettors who can’t wager in the Lone Star State. There is no doubt that many visitors in state on business and pleasure — especially during major sporting events regularly held in New Orleans, like the Super Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship, the NCAA Final Four, Sugar Bowl and more — would take advantage of the opportunity to place a wager while they are in town.
In addition, as experts say the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen over the winter, it must be taken into account that we don’t yet know the economic toll the virus will have on national and state governments, businesses and individuals. Shutdowns have been ongoing for nine months with no end in sight. Large businesses, like Shell, have announced closures. Hundreds if not thousands of small businesses have and will be affected, too. This will help the state and some businesses offset some of the losses endured during this time. Additionally, only those who participate will be taxed.
Voter approval for sports betting this year follows Louisiana’s 2018 authorization to allow wagering on fantasy sports contests in 47 parishes. The Legislature set rules and tax rates for fantasy sports earlier this year and they are being reviewed by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
While Henry says he thinks sports betting could come as early as next year, Lt. Col. Mike Noel with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board believes it will be 2022 before all regulations are in place and a legal sports bet is made in the state.
In the meantime, expect the state’s casinos to begin adding or renovating space to accommodate expected guests at their new sports books.