Sports Gambling-States

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2015, file photo, odds are displayed on a screen at a sports book owned and operated by CG Technology in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File) 

John Locher

The U.S. Supreme Court opened the door Monday for nearly three dozen states to legalize betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sporting contests.

Louisiana will not be one them.

“Not only are we not going to get anything out of it, we’re going to lose money,” Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, said about the impact of Monday’s high court decision and the Legislature’s failure to back bills that would have authorized legalized sports betting.

He predicts more New Orleans customers will now travel about an hour east to Biloxi casinos to place some bets, watch the games, and likely have dinner and some drinks while there.

Mississippi will be ready to go in about 45 days, or 60 days at the most.

Mississippi legislators last year legalized sports betting for that state’s casinos by deleting language in a measure dealing with regulation of fantasy sports. The Mississippi Gaming Commission will propose regulations, by June, then start approving casino applications for bookmaking operations, Allen Godfrey, that state’s chief regulator told reporters.

Ronnie Jones, who heads the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said Monday Godfrey had told him pretty much the same thing last week when they attended a Las Vegas conference for regulators from around the country.

Actually, “everybody in the room, their legislatures had conditionally authorized it, except us,” Jones said.

Martiny attempted to get that authorization in Senate Bill 266, which called for a referendum of voters in parishes where casino gambling is allowed. The legislation advanced out of one state Senate committee but was rejected by the Senate Finance Committee.

Martiny then tried to attach the authorization language to a separate bill last week but was shot down on the Senate floor over arguments that it would expand gambling in Louisiana.

House Bill 484, which cleared the legislative process and is sitting on the governor’s desk, calls for a vote by parishes on whether to allow fantasy sports games run by professional sites like FanDuel and DraftKings. The games are not considered gambling, but shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision both FanDuel and DraftKings announced they would consider using their technology to start offering sports betting too.

Martiny said he would try again next year to get legislative authorization for sports betting, but the same anti-expansion arguments will still be in place. “And if you do pass it, we’ll still be a year behind,” Martiny said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said during a news conference on Monday that he had been urged to include the issue in a special session that will begin next week, but he wanted more time to review the matter. Lawmakers can only take up items included in the governor's proclamation for a special session.

"This just happened today," Edwards said of the Supreme Court ruling.

On a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court found that the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed in 1992, violated 10th amendment constitutional principles that limits federal interference with state policies. The law forbids states, other than Nevada, from allowing wagering on sporting events.

"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. "Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own."

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced Monday afternoon that he would introduce legislation that would bring standards to help guide states and avoid a “patchwork race to the regulatory bottom.”

About 32 states are considered likely to offer sports betting within five years, according to a 2017 report by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, which tracks state-by-state gambling legislation.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year.

Casino giant Caesars Entertainment president and chief executive Mark Frissora told the Associated Press that Monday's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could end illegal sports wagering by replacing it with a well-regulated alternative.

Las Vegas-based Caesars operates 47 casinos in 13 U.S. states, including Louisiana and Mississippi, and five countries.

Frissora says the company will announce its specific approach to adding sports books after regulations evolve from the court ruling.

Alito’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Neil Gorsuch and agreed to by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Justice Stephen Breyer concurred in part and dissented in part.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, wrote that the majority should be more tailored to impact the states, rather than private parties.

The New Jersey Legislature in 2014, under then Gov. Chris Christie, allowed sports betting at racetracks and casinos. But those laws were overturned because of the federal prohibition. The lawsuit now styled “New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, et al., versus the National Collegiate Athletic Association, et al., raised states’ rights arguments, which the Supreme Court majority accepted.

More than a dozen states had supported New Jersey, which argued that Congress exceeded its authority when it passed the law barring states from authorizing sports betting.

New Jersey has spent years and millions of dollars in legal fees trying to legalize sports betting at its casinos, racetracks and former racetracks. In 2012, with voters' support, New Jersey lawmakers passed a law allowing sports betting, directly challenging the 1992 federal law which says states can't "authorize by law" sports gambling. The four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued, and the state lost in court.

Hours after the high court ruling New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, filed legislation that would regulate sports betting and set the tax rate at 8 percent.

All four major U.S. professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the federal government had urged the court to uphold the federal law. In court, the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball had argued that New Jersey's gambling expansion would hurt the integrity of their games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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