It looks like the campaign to legalize sports wagering in Louisiana is receiving bipartisan support, with a legislative session on the matter already slated for April 8. But it may still take quite a while before local punters can begin to legally place their bets, as a number of issues still needed to be sorted out.
A previous attempt to give voters the right to decide on the future of sports wagering in the state did not fare well. Lawmakers will most probably hold a debate on the matter again in the coming months, said Senator Ronnie Johns, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary B Committee.
Louisiana Losing Out To Other States
In the wake of a Supreme Court ruling last year which removed the ban on sports betting, several US states passed legalization measures with many more expected to follow suit this year. Among the states which submitted proposals are Mississippi and Arkansas. Louisiana hasn’t been quick to pull the trigger and this is putting Louisiana casinos at a disadvantage according to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
While the Governor couldn’t get into the details as to what the legislation should be like, he said they are in the process of figuring out what will work best for Louisiana.
No Major Windfall
Other states are already enjoying massive revenue from sports betting, but lawmakers aren’t so sure as to whether Louisiana could expect the same. In fact, both Johns and Edwards are not anticipating a major windfall.
Legal sports betting in Louisiana could generate annual revenue of between $245 million and $288 million according to market analysts. When you take into account the state’s tax rate, up to $62 million of that amount would go directly to the state’s coffers, according to the American Gaming Association.
Larger Economic Impact
But proponents claim the impact on the economy could be much bigger. Casinos could see a boost in revenue from their restaurants and hotels, as well as fees for other facilities and amenities. This is evidenced by what operators in Mississippi are starting to see as they reported an uptick in other revenue resources since legalized sports betting came into force.
Acknowledging that Louisiana may have already started losing business to Mississippi, Johns said it’s one of the most important areas they’re currently looking into – legalizing sports wagering in Louisiana isn’t just about expanding gaming in the state, it’s all about insulating businesses, eventually benefiting the state in the long run.
Last week, a meeting of the National Council of Gaming State Legislators was held at Harrah’s, attended by lawmakers across the country. Prominent names in the gambling industry, sports league representatives and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie were present and sports betting was the main subject of discussion.
America is now gearing up for the busiest sports betting season with the NFL playoffs, NCAA basketball and the NBA playoffs all set to pump up the excitement among sports fans and punters. With all of these happening, Louisiana is clearly missing out on potential gambling revenues and the state would experience a similar case in 2020 if the sports betting legislation is not fast tracked in the state.
Voter Referendum On The Cards
As the sports betting campaign intensifies, Johns said it would be best to give the local residents of Louisiana the final say on whether or not the state should adopt the gaming expansion.
A statewide referendum approach would reflect the sentiments of citizens. This is what happened in November 2018 when the majority of them gave their nod to the legalization of online fantasy sports betting in the state. The decision indicated that voters could give the same support to sports betting, should a vote be held.
Other states with legalized sports betting also adopted the same voter referendum approach. hould the Louisiana legislature agree to include sports wagering legalization on the ballot, voters will decide on the issue during the scheduled Oct 12 statewide election.
However, it appears state lawmakers still have a lot of work to do, given that the legislation previously brought forward did not clearly indicate a specific tax rate and did not address certain regulatory issues. Louisiana is currently imposing a gaming tax rate of 21.5 percent which is the highest tax rate in the country.