Louisiana Senate Sends Sports Betting Framework Bill To Governor

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The Louisiana Senate Thursday morning concurred and accepted House amendments on SB 247, and the bill will now be sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards for approval. The bill lays out the framework for what online and retail sports betting in Louisiana will look like in the 55 of 64 parishes that legalized sports betting in November 2020.

There was no discussion when Sen. Rich Ward moved to reconsider the House amendments or when he moved to concur on them. The Senate voted 33-3 to accept the amendments. The bill allows digital wagering and betting at brick-and-mortar locations, including racetracks and existing casinos. There are 20 sports betting licenses available, and each licensee will be entitled to two skins, or digital platforms. The Louisiana Lottery will also have access to a digital license, meaning there would be as many as 41 online/mobile platforms available.

A twist in the bill is that if racetracks and casinos don’t claim all 20 sports betting licenses by Jan. 1, 2022, fantasy sports betting operators and video poker establishments can apply for any remaining licenses.

HB 697 set the tax rate at 10% for revenue generated from retail wagering and 15% for digital wagering. Edwards signed that bill June 4. He is expected to sign SB 247 sooner than later. The final piece of sports betting legislation is SB 142, which breaks down how tax revenue will be spent. That bill was also sent to conference committee. The legislature is set to adjourn today.

Lottery director surprised to be included

The sports betting bills have moved through the state legislature with plenty of fits and starts, and there was little indication that the lottery would have any involvement. That is until Senate President and bill sponsor Page Cortez filed an amendment to give the lottery and its contractor Intralot an online skin.

According to a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, Cortez met with the president of the lottery earlier this year, alerting her that he would include sports betting. From the story:

(Lottery chief Rose) Hudson said she was “taken aback” at Cortez’s request that the lottery handle sports betting; it was not on her radar. But she said the lottery has a “track record” to handle gaming, adding that legislative leaders saw it as a good way to bring the bars and restaurants into the business.

The lottery will now have its own digital platform and any lottery vendor from restaurants to bars to convenience stores will be able to offer sports betting via lottery kiosks.

There are a handful of other states in which a lottery has its own platform competing against seasoned operators, and for the most part, the lottery product isn’t as competitive. A prime example is in Washington, D.C., where the lottery’s GamBetDC has come under fire almost since it launched more than a year. Intralot also runs that platform.

Cortez also pushed for HHR

The Advocate also reported that Cortez pushed a bill that would allow for historical horse racing machines to be allowed at racetracks and off-track-betting parlors in Louisiana. The story ties Cortez to lobbyist Joel Robideaux, and suggests that Cortez took “extraordinary steps” to ensure that Robideaux’s gambling clients got favorable consideration during the session.

Robideaux was a Louisiana state representative from August 2004-July 2016, and was the Speaker of the House for two years. After he left the House, Robideaux went on to become mayor of Lafayette, in the central part of the state.

The historical horse racing bill in question is SB 209, which was approved by the House on June 7 and the Senate June 8.

Should Edwards sign SB 247, Louisiana will have the most open, competitive sports betting marketplace in the South. While two of its neighbors — Mississippi and Arkansas — both have legal wagering, it is in-person only, and neither Texas nor Oklahoma have legalized. The Texas legislature adjourned until 2023 at the end of the May with no action, despite multiple bills being filed. Across the South, few states have legalized. Tennessee is the only Southern state with statewide mobile wagering.

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