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)

As the instruments setting up the mechanics that soon will allow most Louisiana residents to wager on sporting events get closer to final legislative approval, the state Senate on Wednesday advanced the bill that details where the money will go.

House Bill 697, which deals with taxes and fees, is sitting on the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The second measure – Senate Bill 247, which sets up the procedures and regulations – is scheduled for a vote in by the full House Thursday. If approved unchanged, then SB247 also will be headed to the governor.

Upon Edwards signature, Louisiana residents will be able to bet on baseball, basketball and other sporting events – perhaps as soon as football season – using smart phones, kiosks in bars and restaurants serving alcohol and at casinos in the 55 of the 64 parishes that voted last year to allow sports betting.

Now, state Sen. Rick Ward, a Port Allen Republican, is ready to move his heavily amended Senate Bill 142, which would divvy up the proceeds.

The Senate approved the bill Wednesday on a 33-3 vote. The measure now heads to the House for consideration during the last eight days of the 2021 legislative session. SB142’s passage is not necessary to begin sports betting.

Ward said he been holding off moving the measure while trying to get a handle on how much money for the state that sports betting would generate. He didn't want to raise anyone’s hopes needlessly. Still, his colleagues quizzed him on when to expect the money. 

The scoop on state politics in your inbox

Get the Louisiana politics insider details once a week from us. Sign up today.

“I don’t know when the first deposits would happen,” Ward told his colleagues. “As soon as we start collecting.”

Nobody is really sure how much revenues will be raised as Louisiana is new to sports betting and each of the 26 states that allow this type of gambling have different systems, conditions, and taxes. New Jersey’s state government, for instance, raises about $45 million in revenues, but sits next to two populous states that don’t allow such gambling, according to legalsportsbetting.com. State government in Mississippi pulled down about $15 million last year.

Estimates for Louisiana range from $10 million to an optimistic $50 million annually.

Whatever the amount, under Ward’s SB142, the state treasurer would send 1% of the proceeds to the Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund; 20% for Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund; 10% by proportion to each participating parish governing authority; 1% for the State Racing Commission; and the rest going into the state general fund to be appropriated as the legislators agree each year.

HB697, sponsored by Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, set taxes bets placed in licensed establishments at 10% and 15% on mobile phones or websites. The taxes would be on the net proceeds – the amount left over after bets are covered – paid by the casinos. The money would go into "Sports Wagering Enforcement Fund" in the state treasury.

Senate Bill 247, sponsored by Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, sets out that the 20 casinos on riverboats, on land and at racetracks will have to pay $250,000 to apply and clear a vetting that’s not unlike the one they’ve already undergone. Once an applicant has cleared the suitability requirements, the casino then will have to pay $500,000 for the license that will last for five years. Each licensee will be able to contract two different platforms to handle mobile betting.

Once both measures are signed into law, the Gambling Control Commission will set up regulations and the casinos will get the equipment in place, hopefully in time to start taking wagers for football season.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.