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Louisiana Lawmaker Floats Bill to Protect Skilled Casino Game Players

If a Louisiana legislator gets his wish, casino players who consistently beat the house by virtue of skill and strategy alone will be protected from exclusion by law.

House Bill 152 – which was introduced by State representative Walt Leger III (D-91) of New Orleans in late February – seeks to clarify exactly who warrants a ban from the state’s casinos.

As written, HB-152 prevents casinos from barring players who exhibit superior skill at the tables:

“A person may not be excluded from a gaming establishment operated by a licensee or the casino operator for reasons based solely on the skill level of the person.”

In an interview with Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate, Leger explained the motivation behind his bill:

“I just don’t think they should have such wide latitude to exclude people based on skill level or because they won.

Anybody who is cheating or acting disruptively or doing anything unlawful would still be excluded, I just don’t want them to be excluded because of skill level.”

Under current state law, casinos hold wide latitude to ban players whose “presence would be adverse to the interests of Louisiana or gaming operations.”

Counting commercial casinos and their riverboat-based alternatives, Louisiana is home to 25 gambling establishments.

If passed, HB-152 would allow casinos to ban patrons who satisfy the following criteria:

“Persons suspected of cheating.

Persons whose gaming privileges, permits, or licenses have been suspended, revoked, or denied.

Persons who pose a threat to the safety of the patrons or employees of the casino operator or casino manager or any casino gaming licensee.”

Other grounds for legal exclusion include a history of “disruptive conduct,” a valid court order precluding entrance from the premises, or pending criminal charges related to gambling.

Leger’s bill appears to have significant momentum behind it, as the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice approved it via 15-0 vote. That sent HB-152 on for consideration by the full House, where it passed unanimously by an 87-0 margin.

The bill was forwarded to the state Senate, where it is currently being considered by the Committee on Judiciary.

As Leger recounted to The Advocate, the impetus for HB-152 arrived when a constituent expressed concern about riverboat casinos banning players simply for their ability to win.

While most casino wagers, including slot machines, baccarat, and craps, are defined as games of chance, blackjack and video poker involve significant levels of skill. When players adopt optimal strategies for these games, the house’s edge can be reduced to miniscule levels – and certain variants can even be tilted to provide the player with an advantage over the long run.

The Louisiana Legislature has been favorable to casino initiatives to begin the 2018 session. A bill to allow riverboat casinos to operate on land was approved by a Senate committee in late March, while another Senate bill to remove the underwater paddle wheel requirement was also pushed through committee.

The latter bill, SB-316, would also allow riverboat casinos to hold up to four gambling tournaments each year – further expanding the reach of poker tournament circuits like the World Poker Tour (WPT) and World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOP-C).