Legalized sports betting is coming to Louisiana, but not for everyone. Geofencing companies are going to have a lot of work to do following the November General Election.
The state is extremely unique when it comes to political issues. Where many states have counties, Louisiana has parishes and the parishes are able to vote individually on issues that make it on the ballot. There are 64 parishes in Louisiana and the November vote is almost assuredly not going to be a clean sweep. That means that there will be some parishes in Louisiana that allow legal sports wagering and others that do not.
The November 3 question will officially read, “Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of ___?” The sports betting referendum made it through both the House and the Senate with pretty lopsided votes. It was a 29-9 score in the Senate and a 71-24 vote in the House. The parishes could feature something of a similar majority if the 2018 vote on daily fantasy sports is a gauge for this vote. That passed in 47 of the 64 parishes.
Ironically, even though the vote took place, DFS sites are still not up and running in Louisiana because legislators haven’t been able to get on the same page regarding taxes. Similar negotiation on tax legislation could hold sports betting up for a little while as well. It should also be expected that any tax rate discussions for sports betting would also solidify the DFS plan, which could be particularly beneficial for operators like DraftKings and FanDuel to set up shop.
Depending on how things shake out with the November vote, Louisiana could be a pretty popular state for operators. There are 20 state casinos and three tribal casinos and conceivably all of them could have the opportunity to give out a license or two.
At this point, most of what we know is that there will be a public vote by parish. Most of the details, including tax rates and licensing, still need to be ironed out in legislative sessions. The Louisiana Gaming Control Board would have oversight. The Senate Bill, SB130, states that sports wagering shall be defined as “the business of accepting wagers on any sports event or sports contest by any system or method of wagering”, which would imply that mobile and online wagering would be allowed.
As a result, because betting is only going to be allowed in parishes that vote in favor of the ballot measure, geofencing technology is going to have to pull a lot of weight in ensuring that wagering can only take place in the defined areas. Parish residents without betting would have to commute to an approved location, though it could simply be a neighboring parish and that could even be a workplace or a favorite bar, so long as a website or sports betting app could be used.
Governor John Bel Edwards has been in favor of an expansion of gaming to include sports betting as a means of putting more money into the state budget. Given the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are likely to see sports betting start in a lot of states in 2021 and Louisiana will be one of them. The degree to which sports betting exists in Louisiana is the question and we will get our answer on November 3.
Certainly Orleans Parish will be the biggest one under the microscope. With a metro population of nearly 1.3 million, that is the most important area for sports betting operators. New Orleans only has two of the states 23 gaming facilities, with the Harrah’s New Orleans and also Fair Grounds Race Course. Baton Rouge has three. Bossier City in Bossier Parish and Shreveport in Caddo Parish are also important areas for the vote. Bossier City has four gaming facilities and Shreveport has a couple.
Shreveport and Bossier City would be the closest major markets to Texas, which would be really important for the operators, since Texas is an untapped market for the most point. Texas will not approve sports betting legislation anytime soon, but the Shreveport and Bossier City areas are less than three hours from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area.
Lake Charles would be another critically important city in the parish of Calcasieu with two riverboat casinos. Lake Charles is just over two hours from Houston.
There is a lot at stake for Louisiana, but especially for the operators that want a way to tap into the Texas market. The Pelican State looks like the best hope for that, so November 3 will be a very important day for legalized sports betting.