- Louisiana Voters Support Regulated Sportsbooks
- Lawmakers Will Debate Whether to Run Betting Through the State Lottery.
- Proposed Tax Rates are Slightly Above Average.
Louisiana voters enthusiastically supported regulated sportsbooks during the fall 2020 election. Now, lawmakers are getting down to the business of how to implement the voters’ will. State legislators are debating whether to allow online sportsbooks and how to structure license fees and taxes. At least seven bills were introduced, some of which compete with other proposals or build upon each other.
Will Louisiana Sportsbooks Operate Online?
The most promising Louisiana sportsbook bill is SB 202. Sponsored by Senate President Patrick Cortez (R-Lafayette), he partnered on the rollout with Ronnie Johns (R-Sulphur) and Rick Ward (R-Port Allen). The powerful trio of Republicans proposes running Louisiana sportsbooks through the state lottery. Included in SB 202 are:
- A license for the lottery to offer online wagering and wagering terminals.
- Up to 20 retail sportsbooks licenses.
- 15 for Louisiana’s riverboat casinos.
- 4 for parimutuel horse racing tracks throughout the state.
- A final license for a land-based casino (presumably Harrah’s New Orleans).
- Each license holder will be able to partner with operators to offer online sportsbooks, with two skins per license.
- A requirement that bettors register in-person at a retail location before wagering online, similar to Illinois.
Any of the retail licenses leftover would be offered to official video poker locations or fantasy sports operators.
How Will Louisiana Sportsbooks Generate Revenue?
A competing proposal to SB 202, SB 195 would cut the lottery out of the licensing. Only riverboats, horse tracks, and casinos could operate sportsbooks under this bill. With less backing, this model is unlikely to advance. However, neither of the Senate bills address how to raise revenue from the new Louisiana sportsbooks.
Instead, a separate House bill sets out fees and taxes for operators regardless of how licenses are apportioned. Sponsored by Representative John Stefanksi (R-Crowley), HB 697 contains fees and taxes that are in-line with other states. For license fees:
- Operators would pay a $1 million application fee and $500,000 for a five-year license.
- Platform providers need a $100,000 application fee with a $50,000 five-year license.
The tax rates contemplated by HB 697 include:
- 15% tax on revenue of licensed retail sportsbooks.
- 30% tax on bets placed on mobile or online apps.
- 40% tax on wagers made through the Louisiana Lottery.
The mobile and lottery tax rates are slightly above recent trends. But Louisiana benefits from its neighbors not yet offering regulated online sportsbooks.
What’s Next for Louisiana Gambling?
After legislators blocked regulated sportsbooks in 2019, voters spoke loudly in support of gambling. Now, lawmakers do not have a choice but to come up with a Louisiana sportsbook plan. Early returns show that comprehensive implementation will include retail and online sportsbooks throughout the Bayou State.
Uniquely, Louisiana voters approved sportsbooks on a local level. Residents of 55 of the state’s 64 parishes supported regulation. No betting will be allowed (for now) in the nine parishes that did not pass the referendum. Geofencing technology will be used to prevent online or mobile wagers in those localities.
Another proposal before the state legislature would allow each parish to levy an excise tax on local bets. Parishes would have the option of adding an up to $5 tax on wagers if SB 121 passes.
The 2021 Louisiana legislative session runs through June 10, so there remains time to debate the particulars of each bill. Due to overwhelming popular support, Saints fans should be able to back up their “Who Dat!” chants with their dollars. But it does not appear the soon to be Caesars Superdome will feature its own sportsbook.