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Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, right, speaks in Senate Judiciary B Committee on his SB202, which provides relative to the regulation of sports wagering, at the Louisiana Legislature, Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Baton Rouge. At left is Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen.

The effort to detail how Louisiana residents will wager on sporting events in the future begins in earnest Wednesday when the House votes on the taxes and fees attached with sports betting.

Meanwhile, Senate sponsors rewrote Tuesday the 40-page bill that sets out the legal definitions, requirements for wagering, whether betting can take place at a fixed site or by using a mobile phone and other process issues.

State Senate President Page Cortez, the Lafayette Republican who is sponsoring the Senate legislation, said he, other lawmakers and industry representatives have been going over the specifics for weeks, even “up until last night we were still working on it.” He asked that the Senate Judiciary B committee to accept the amendments as a substitute for Senate Bill 202 and defer a hearing for another week.

Procedurally, the substitute bill has to be referred to in House Bill 697, which sets out how much purveyors will have to pay in fees and how much in taxes will be charged. That’s why Cortez took it before the committee on Tuesday.

HB697, sponsored by Crowley Republican Rep. John Stefanski, is scheduled to be voted on by the full House Wednesday. It’ll need a two-thirds majority, 70 out of 105 representatives, to pass to the Senate, where it’ll need 20 out of 39 senators for legislative approval. Cortez said he’d like to hold onto his structure bill, should it pass the Judiciary B committee, until after the financing measure clears the Senate. If HB697 doesn’t get the two-thirds vote then his structural format legislation doesn’t really matter, he added.

Lawmakers have until the session adjourns at 6 p.m. on June 10 to pass the legislation through both chambers.

Voters in 55 of the state's 64 parishes endorsed in November allowing residents in those parishes to make wagers on football, basketball, and other sports – some by margins of 70% or more. The next step is for the state to figure out just how all that is going to work.

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Louisiana already is a few years behind competitors, like Mississippi, when it comes to sports betting. Meanwhile, legislatures in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, and several other states are passing bills to get sports betting up and going in their jurisdictions. Half the nation’s 50 states, and the District of Columbia, have legalized sports betting since 2018, according to ESPN, after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the states to engage.

Should both the Stefanski and Cortez bills pass and be signed into law, sports betting still probably won’t actually launch until, maybe, next year’s Super Bowl. Whoever the legislature ends up allowing to handle betting on sporting events still will need set up their businesses based on what the Legislature ultimately designs.

Louisiana has 14 riverboat casinos, which now are allowed to come ashore, a land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos, which are slot machines and table games found at commercial casinos but are located at horse tracks. Additionally, video poker is allowed at many trucks stops and bars around the state.

“It’s going to take a huge financial commitment once we pass this,” said Sen. Ronnie Johns, a Republican whose Lake Charles-based district has three of the state’s largest casinos.

“We’ll have a full discussion on this next week, where we will have witnesses,” said Senate Judiciary B Committee Chair Gary Smith, R-Norco.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.