sports betting vote 052819

Louisiana House Appropriations Committee listen to Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, and Rep. Joseph Marino, No Party-Gretna, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. The panel rejected legislation that would legalize sports betting in Louisiana. 

The attempt to legalize sports betting in Louisiana ran into a series of rejections Tuesday that has pretty much killed the effort for this legislative session.

Shortly before lunch the House Appropriations Committee voted 14-6 to reject Senate Bill 153 by Metairie Republican Sen. Danny Martiny, which would allow the state’s 20 casinos to offer wagering on professional and collegiate sporting events. The Appropriations Committee packed the legislation so full of amendments that Louisiana Casino Association withdrew support. 

Then in the afternoon the full House twice defeated maneuvers to keep sports betting legalization alive.

Technically, supporters of legalization still have a shot. But Rep. Joseph A. Marino, who was handling the legislation in the House, said he doesn't think that's very likely.

"I've read the room," Marino said about the mood of the House in an interview late Tuesday. "I don't see any light left at the end of the tunnel. We're out of time."

Martiny began his farewell speech later Tuesday afternoon with, "I don’t know if you know it, but I’m not having a very good day."

After the Appropriations panel involuntarily deferred SB153, Marino went to the House floor to try one of the few parliamentary moves available. He attempted to discharge the Appropriations committee from considering the measure, which would have circumvented the panel's rejection and allowed the full House to vote on the measure. But that move failed on a vote of 48-41. The motion could be brought back later in the session and pass if five more reps can be persuaded to support discharging the Appropriations committee.

“This is a bill to legalize sports gambling in Louisiana. It had a fair committee hearing, a long committee hearing,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said. “To move it out in the condition it is in now would be unjust to everyone.”

Then later in the afternoon the House, on a vote of 49-46, rejected the measure that would would set up the taxation and regulation of sports betting. The mechanics bill was advanced last week by the same committee that rejected the authorization measure on Tuesday. The authorization measure, SB153, and the mechanics proposal, House Bill 587, were linked.

HB587 by Marino, No Party-Gretna, includes a 13% tax on net proceeds from wagering at the state's casinos. Of the total taxes collected on sports betting, 10% would go to help fund early education programs aimed at children from birth to three-year-olds. Licensing fees would go to the Louisiana State Police to pay for the necessary background checks of the betting operations personnel.

Two percent of the tax proceeds would go to the parishes where the casinos are located and 1 percent — up to a maximum of $750,000 — would fund help for problem gamblers. If tax collections exceed that amount, which isn't expected, any additional dollars would go to early childhood education programs. But HB587 was defeated twice.

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It's the second year in a row that Martiny's efforts to bring sports betting to Louisiana has failed. The U.S. Supreme Court last year lifted a ban on sports betting that allowed the states to participate. Thirty-three states already have legalized wagering on sporting events or are in the process of doing so. Martiny said he wanted to help Louisiana casinos compete with the Mississippi gambling establishments that have already started sports betting and is attracting Louisiana gamblers.

Conservative Protestants, who have fought gambling for decades, again trotted out statistics showing the social and governmental costs of problem and pathological gamblers.

“We are betting the farm on gambling, which harms our people,” said Will Hall, of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. “We’re hurting our families more by investing more in gambling.”

But what really turned the tide, according to Marino, was when the legislation got stuffed by committee members with so many additions that the casinos withdrew support.

"With the amendments that have been loaded onto this bill, it is untenable. You now have put enough baggage on the plane it will not get airborne," Wade Duty told the Appropriations committee. Duty is the executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, the Baton Rouge trade organization that represents 15 of the state's 20 riverboat, racetrack and land based casinos.

After the hearing, Duty said it wasn't any single amendment that led to the withdrawal of support. But all the changes made Tuesday would turn a game with a low profit margin to begin with, into a financial loser. Sports betting itself doesn't raise a lot of money for the casinos, but it serves as another way to attract patrons to the facilities, he said. 

The horse racing industry got an additional cut from bets made at racetrack casinos in an amendment to the Senate measure. The bill also was changed to allow sports betting at the state’s 2,800 video poker establishments, such as truck stops and bars. And another alteration would have required the bets to be confirmed by official league data, which would have to be purchased by the casinos. Only Tennessee requires that, he said.

Then, there's the 13 percent tax – second highest in the nation. Las Vegas has been allowed to do sports betting since the 1940s. Nevada's tax is a little more than 6 percent and the casinos there make about a 4.5 percent profit, he said.

At 13 percent the financials "become a very iffy break-even concept," Duty said. "In its present configuration it is not something we can support."


Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.