In the Louisiana legislature, a sports betting bill was rejected and a fantasy sports measure is moving forward.
S 266, introduced by state Senator Danny Martiny, originally would have allowed sports betting at all of the state’s gaming establishments–casinos, video poker parlors and horseracing tracks. The bill later was amended to include only casinos. Passage would have required a referendum in every one of the state’s 64 parishes. It passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary, but was rejected 6-3 by the Committee on Finance due to concerns over gambling expansion and implementation costs. The legislation would have been dependent on the U.S. Supreme Court lifting the federal ban on sports betting.
Martiny said allowing sports betting in Louisiana casinos would make them more competitive with Mississippi casinos, which passed legislation to offer sports betting following the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling. He also said legalizing sports betting would generate revenue to pay for state services without raising individual taxes.
Martiny’s measure did not spell out how sports betting would be taxed, nor did it specify fees for operators. However, fiscal analysts estimated enforcement and monitoring sports betting could cost the state $40.19 million over five years. The costs in the next budget cycle alone were estimated at $10.6 million. With a budget deficit of $648 million, the Senate Finance Committee is rejecting nearly every bill that could cost the state additional money.
In a 67-23 vote, the full House passed state Rep. Kirk Talbot’s H 484, the Louisiana Fantasy Sports Contests Act, which would legalize daily fantasy sports in the state. The Louisiana Gaming Control Board would regulate DFS contests. If the measure passes, it will appear on the November 6 ballot and must be approved in a voter referendum within each parish. Players would be allowed to participate in DFS contests from home only in parishes that approve the measure.
Next the bill will be assigned to a Senate committee; if it passes, it would go before the full Senate and on to the governor for signature.
Also, state Rep. Dustin Miller recently postponed House Bill 881, which would prohibit smoking in bars, casinos and sports arenas. Miller delayed the bill for the second time as he continues to add amendments such as exempting outdoors meetings and cigar bars.
Casino operators said the legislation would cut into their revenue. In addition, Louisiana Video Gaming Association lobbyist Alton Ashy told the committee the industry directly employs more than 15,000 in the state and another 10,000 indirect employees. He noted the video gaming industry is the highest taxed in the state, generating $180 million in direct tax revenue.
But Miller said the state pays about $1.89 billion in annual healthcare costs due to smoking related deaths. “The gaming industry brings in a lot of tax revenue, but when you look at the side effects of the smoking in these facilities and the healthcare costs that the state of Louisiana has to pay, how much money are we spending on the healthcare related issues versus gaining through taxes?”
In 2007, lawmakers passed a law banning smoking in restaurants and most public places, but casinos were exempted. However, in 2015, New Orleans passed legislation banning indoor smoking and the use of e-cigarettes, and in August 2017, Baton Rouge passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking inside bars and casinos.