Sports Betting

In this June 27, 2019 photo, a gambler places a bet at the new sportsbook at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, N.J. New Jersey surpassed Nevada in terms of sports betting volume in May, taking the national lead for the first time. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

A group called Louisiana Wins that backs sports betting will unveil its first television commercial Sunday during the New Orleans Saints’ season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Voters are being asked on the Nov. 3 ballot if they would allow wagering in their parish on football, basketball, and other sporting events. Though commonplace, sports betting isn’t allowed in Louisiana, meaning many of the state’s residents go to other states to place bets and watch the game from a casino bar or restaurant.

The state would collect about $300 million in tax revenues by allowing sports betting, according to the gambling industry. Much of that money is being spent – and taxed – by Louisiana residents in Mississippi and Arkansas.

“We can keep those dollars here in Louisiana to grow our economy and make investments in things like education and infrastructure by legalizing sports wagering this fall,” said Ryan Berni on behalf of Louisiana Wins. Now a political consultant, Berni was Deputy Mayor of External Affairs to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The first television ad can be viewed here.

Efforts to legalize sports wagering has traveled a long and winding path in Louisiana.

Voters in 47 of 64 parishes in 2018 favored regulated fantasy sports, which involves paying to pick players for teams, usually using a phone, then winning prizes based on how well those players performed in real life. But setting up the regulations and tax structure proved difficult, getting tied down with bills to legalize sports betting in casinos.

Gambling and its expansion is sharply opposed by the evangelical community, which often finds allies among truck stops, bars and other smaller venues that have video poker machines and generally want to be included when the big casinos try to expand their offerings. Louisiana has 20 state-regulated casinos on the water, on land and at racetracks, plus three casinos on Native American tribal lands.

The state Constitution requires approval through a parish referendum for any new gambling game is allowed in that particular parish.

Senate Bill 130, by Metairie Republican Sen. Cameron Henry and signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on June 11, sets up votes on sports betting in each parish.

Legislators and the Gaming Control Board will have to come back in 2021, if voters approve legalizing sports betting, to set up regulations for administering, licensing, and other oversight as well as setting tax rates and collection processes.