Legislation detailing the framework of how Louisiana adults will be able to wager on sporting events – perhaps as early as football season – cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday and is on its way to the governor.

The Senate agreed with minor changes in wording added by the House. Gov. John Bel Edwards hasn’t said whether he would sign the set-up bill, but he already has signed into law the companion measure that details the taxes and fees to be charged once sports betting is established. 

In a parish-by-parish referendum last November, voters in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes chose to participate in sports betting with a total of 65% of the state’s voters backing the idea. But before any wager could be placed on football, basketball games or other sporting events – at the college and pro level – the Legislature first needed to enact into law how the bets would be placed, how they would be taxed and how they would be regulated.

Senate Bill 247, which cleared the legislative process Thursday, sets up the structure and regulation. Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, was the lead sponsor of SB247.

House Bill 697, which sets up taxes and fees, was signed into law by the governor on June 4. Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, was lead sponsor for HB697.

Senate Bill 142, which would disburse the revenues, also cleared the Legislature on Thursday. But passage of SB142 is not necessary for sports betting to begin. State Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, sponsored SB142. 

But really Cortez, Stefanski and Ward led legislators who have been negotiating with representatives of the casino industry, truck stops, bars and restaurants, technology firms as well as companies that handle sports betting in other states almost from the moment that the results were counted after the November statewide election. The bills that make up the sports betting package were written and rewritten several times, then tweaked repeatedly once they entered into the process in mid-May, which was relatively late to begin hearing new legislation.   

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If Edwards signs SB247, the new laws become effective in three weeks, a shorter than usual timeframe set in hopes fast-starting the processes needed the gambling game up and going – sponsors say hopefully by the end of August or September. The Gaming Control Board, which is charged with overseeing sports betting, already has started looking at what rules need to be approved. The Board will start promulgating regulations and vetting applications on July 1.

Only the 20 existing casinos – those on riverboats, at racetracks and the one on land in New Orleans – have first crack at the licenses. It’ll cost $250,000 to apply and should the applicant clear a suitability review, will have to pay $500,000 more for a five-year license. Each license will allow the casinos to hire and license two providers to handle betting online and via smart phones. The legislative package also authorized the Louisiana Lottery Corp. to contract a provider to handle sports betting kiosks that would be placed in the bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

The casinos are primed and ready to apply once doors are open to do so, Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, has said. If any of the casinos decline to apply, the licenses will be open to video poker providers that set up in the so-called casino truck stops and elsewhere. But they will have to pass the suitability investigation, which is easier for the casinos that already undergo routine state examinations.

The Louisiana Lottery Corp. expects to spend about $16.4 million to buy 1,000 terminals. The kiosk vendors want 40% of the net proceeds annually. Any profits from the kiosks handled by the Lottery Corp. after paying expenses, then a 10% allocation to the Community and Family Support System Fund, would go into the fund that pays for public schools.

Louisiana State Police anticipates needing to hire 19 additional people to regulate this new form of gambling, including six auditors, two compliance specialists, 10 investigators and one staff officer, according to the legislation. Attorney General Jeff Landry wants to hire two more assistant attorneys general and an administrative assistant. The costs, which would be paid out the fee revenues, would be about $2.3 million annually.

Wagers would be taxed at 10%, if placed in the sportsbooks areas that casinos are going to have to build, and at 15% on cellphones or websites. The taxes would be on the net proceeds — the amount left over after bets are covered — and would be paid by the primary licensees.

Nobody is sure just how much money would be raised for state coffers as each of the dozen and half states that allow for sports betting have different taxes, setups and take place in regions with different populations. Whatever dollars do come in, the collection will be put in the fund that secures the bonds the state uses to fund construction. From there, 12% would be distributed to the parishes that approved sports betting; 2% or up to $500,000 of the profits would go to the Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund; 20%, up to $10 million, would go to Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund; 2.5% would go to beef up horse racing purses. The rest would go to the state general fund and be distributed as legislators wish.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.