Right now, there is a lot of talk about sports betting in Louisiana, not to mention what to do with Harrah’s for the next 30 years. What’s missing in this discussion is how proposed changes will impact small, locally owned businesses.

I own three sports bars in Jefferson Parish. Our customers eat and drink and watch sports year-round at my establishments and thousands of other locally owned businesses. We are regulated daily by several state agencies, including the Louisiana State Police, as we’re a licensed video poker location.

While I support fantasy sports and sports betting, any legislation must include this activity occurring within brick-and-mortar, locally owned businesses. That way, Louisiana businesses will earn new revenue, rather than sending more money to big, out-of-state corporations. As my business creates more revenue, we will pay more taxes directly to the parish and the state.

Betting in licensed video poker outlets would also better regulate who can place wagers and where those wagers can be placed. Allowing fantasy betting from playgrounds, churches or schools, without proper oversight and regulation, goes against every standard the state has set regarding gaming for the last 20 years.

The thought of anybody simply picking up their mobile device to bet on a game should frighten us all. Our state police already regulate video poker outlets, so it would be logical to extend this to sports wagering. Current state laws require all bars to enforce age verification to prohibit underage gambling and alcohol consumption for individuals under 21.

There are three pieces of legislation under consideration: one for Harrah’s Casino to build a hotel; a second for Harrah’s, the riverboats and racetracks to add sports betting; and, a third one for fantasy sports on the internet to be taxed in Louisiana. All of these bills help out-of-state-owned enterprises to improve their profits. Not one of them benefits locally owned small businesses here in Louisiana.

Give my business and others like me the opportunity to participate and earn new revenue and maintain the same strict standards that already exist around video poker.

I don’t want to lose my sports customers to casinos and other out-of-state companies because my local business is barred from hosting sports betting.

It’s vital that we include locally owned establishments in sports betting. Please don’t give casinos a monopoly, and definitely don’t allow gambling to be allowed to operate anywhere with online fantasy sports betting. I am hopeful that fantasy sports will also be required to be made in Louisiana brick-and-mortar locations.

I hope our local and state legislators are paying attention and putting the business down the street ahead of the interests of companies thousands of miles away.

Bradley Perry

sports bar and grill owner