Now that sports betting bills passed by the Legislature have been signed into law, the first legal bets in Louisiana could be placed at the end of football season. But some businesses are already making moves in anticipation of cashing in on the wagering.
While all of the state-licensed riverboat casinos, racinos and the Harrah’s land-based casino in New Orleans will be able to get in on the action, others have laid the groundwork to cash in as well.
The Louisiana Lottery Corp. plans to have an online app and install up to 1,000 kiosks in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Nola.com and theadvocate.com, along with The Times-Picayune and The Advocate, will launch a new sports-betting website, ramp up sports coverage and create digital sports-betting shows. For nearly a year, the local sports talk station, 104.5 ESPN, has had a daily gambling show hosted by Jimmy Ott. Earlier this month, WBRZ started airing daily programming from VSiN, a Las Vegas-based sports betting network on its WBRZ+ channel.
“They know the numbers are going to be big in Louisiana. They’re smart to get out ahead of it,” said Brian Musburger, founder and chief executive officer of VSiN, whose programming is available online and through some cable systems, but for the first time is airing on a broadcast network through its association with WBRZ.
The market for sports betting in Louisiana is estimated to be between $2 billion and $2.6 billion over the next 10 years, said Yaniv Sherman, a senior vice president and head of U.S. operations for 888 Holdings, an online gaming company based in Gibraltar that also hopes to tap into the Louisiana market.
Louisiana is a unique market because there are a high number of people interested in Saturday betting — a day dominated by college football — and in Sunday betting, where the NFL is king. While that's not a surprise given how big the fan bases are for LSU and the New Orleans Saints, Musburger said he's basing this on the audience numbers for VSiN that are coming out of the state. “There are a lot of passionate sports fans licking their chops for sports betting,” he said. “It’s going to be a big number.”
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board will spend the next month or two working on administrative regulations for sports betting, which will cover things such as internal controls, operating procedures and technical aspects of the mobile betting platforms. The rules will be published in August or September, Mike Noel, the former head of the board said before his resignation in June.
Once those rules are published, casinos and mobile gaming operators will be able to apply for a license for sports betting. It will take Louisiana State Police about three months to conduct investigations and process the applications, so wagers could be taken in November or December, Noel said.
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All of the state-licensed riverboat casinos, racinos and the Harrah’s land-based casino in New Orleans will be able to operate sports books and mobile apps. Each casino will be able to license two different “skins,” or individually branded mobile apps.
All of the companies that own casinos in Louisiana have some relationship with a sports betting company, so it’s expected this will carry over, though not all Louisiana casino operators contacted would discuss their plans for sports betting.
One exception was Boyd Gaming, the parent company of Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino in Opelousas, Amelia Belle Casino in Amelia, Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel in Vinton and Sam’s Town Shreveport.
The company readily said sports betting has been a popular amenity at its casinos in other states, such as Imperial Palace in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Sam’s Town in Robinsonville, Mississippi. Boyd operates sports books at both of those properties in partnership with FanDuel, which has the largest share of the online gambling market.
Hollywood Casino has filed a permit to expand its operations and move onto land.
“Together with our partners at FanDuel, we look forward to introducing traditional sports books and mobile sports betting at all five of our Louisiana properties,” Boyd said in a statement. “We plan to apply to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and Racing Commission for sports-betting licenses in the near future.”
DraftKings, the other leader in online sports betting, is also expected to have a presence in Louisiana. The company has branded sports books at 13 casinos, including Scarlet Pearl in D’Iberville, Mississippi. DraftKings also has a marketing agreement with Casino Queen, which plans to buy the Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino Baton Rouge. That agreement already has led a riverboat casino in East St. Louis, Illinois, to be rebranded as DraftKings at Casino Queen.
Gaming giant Caesars Entertainment, which owns Harrah’s New Orleans and the Isle of Capri Lake Charles, operates its own online sportsbook.
"We look forward to working with regulators and our Louisiana team members so we can offer another form of entertainment to the state's residents and visitors," the company said in a statement.
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Among those with sports betting relationships is Penn National Gaming, the parent company of L’Auberge Baton Rouge and L’Auberge Lake Charles. It has a stake in Barstool Sportsbook, which operates branded sports books at some of its properties. Churchill Downs, the owner of the Fair Grounds, also owns TwinSpires, an online betting site.
Rose Hudson, president and chief executive officer of the lottery corporation, said the framework is still being worked out for sports betting through up to 1,000 kiosks in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, such as the limits that will be placed on how much can be bet at one time. That’s being done so retailers don’t need to keep large amounts of cash on hand to pay out winners.
The lottery is making its own rules for sports betting, separate from the gaming commission. Those rules will mainly focus on suitability standards, similar to those businesses have to meet in order to sell lottery tickets, such as paying taxes and not having a criminal record.
It's not clear how long it will take for the lottery to get into the sports betting business.
“I heard them (legislators) saying by the start of football season; that made me nervous,” Hudson said. “I don’t see us starting in August. We’ll need to have a better handle on it first."
Hudson said the lottery corporation’s mobile sports betting app is expected to launch first before the kiosks are introduced.
Oregon, which is similar in population size to Louisiana, launched sports betting through its state lottery in October 2019. The Oregon Lottery has apps for Apple and Android devices, which allow residents to bet on everything from the NFL and NBA to Russian table tennis and Pakistani cricket. However, the state doesn’t allow betting on college sports. Since sports betting was legalized in the state, more than $405 million has been wagered and $36 million in tax revenue was generated for Oregon.
Pennsylvania-based Spectrum Gaming Group analyzed the gambling market for Louisiana Economic Development in 2019. The company estimated sports betting could generate between $237 million to $332 million in annual revenue for Louisiana. It could also bring in younger customers to casinos, who generally aren’t a big gambling market.
Even though Mississippi has gotten a two-year jump on sports betting, that shouldn’t have much of an impact on the Louisiana market, said Matt Roob, senior vice president of analysis for Spectrum.
“It’s all about convenience,” he said. “If you can bet on your phone, why would you go to Mississippi?”
And for gamblers who want to visit a sports book after work to watch a game while having dinner and drinks, it makes more sense to head to a local property than the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “You’re going to go to the place that’s closest and most convenient,” he said.
Sherman, the 888 Holdings executive, said the firm, which trades on the London Stock Exchange, is bullish about Louisiana. 888 Holdings is working with “a blue chip brand” and plans to seek certification to enter the state’s sports gaming market.
Though the Louisiana market is estimated in the $2 billion to $2.6 billion range over 10 years, Sherman said he expects that number will grow since the only experience the state’s residents have with legal online betting is through offshore casinos.
“The vast majority of your customers online never visit your property, especially in larger states,” he said. “Sixty-five to 80% of people who bet through a casino app never set foot on the property.”