Louisiana’s House committee passes sports betting bill

Louisiana’s House committee passes sports betting bill

The House’s Criminal Justice Committee approved a sports betting bill that will allow voters to approve wagering in their parish with an October vote. With states like Iowa recently legalizing sports betting, eyes have now turned to states such as Louisiana to see if they will do the same before the end of their legislative sessions.

State lawmakers took the next step Tuesday night as a Senate-approved measure passed the House’s Criminal Justice Committee. The approval comes as a bit of a surprise as the committee had several anti-gambling members who vowed to kill the legislation. The measure passed by the count of 11-6 and now the bill moves ahead for review by the conservative House budget committee, as reported by The World Sports Network.

Republican Senator Danny Martiny’s Bill 153 would permit sports betting on a variety of games at the professional and collegiate level at the state’s 16 casinos and four horse tracks. Martiny claims his bill is a self-defense measure for the state to knock down illegal gambling in the jurisdiction.

“This is an industry that currently operates underground. It’s here,” Sen. Martiny said. “We have all of the ills of (sports gambling), but none of the benefits, none of the financial benefits.”

A Louisiana House panel Monday narrowly approved legislation that would tax the activity should lawmakers allow it. The House Appropriations Committee voted 12-9 to advance a 13% tax on net proceeds of any wagering on college and professional sporting events at the state’s casinos.

Of that amount, 10% would go to help fund early education programs aimed at children from birth to three-year-olds under House Bill 587 by Rep. Joseph A. Marino III. Licensing fees would go to pay Louisiana State Police for the necessary background checks of the betting operations personnel.

Two percent of the tax proceeds would go to the parishes where the casinos are located and 1 percent, up to USD 500,000, would help fund help for problem gamblers. If tax collections exceed that amount, and that’s not expected, any additional dollars would go to early childhood education programs.

Attempts were made in committee to add “poison pill” amendments by representatives who do not want sports gambling in the state. These amendments would have added truck stop betting and licensed hundreds of location for video poker. But Democrat Rep. Ted James pushed to kill the amendments and was successful, leading to the committee’s final approval.

Opponents to the sports betting bill continue to contend that state-sponsored wagering on events will lead to addictive behavior that will tear apart families.

The bill has the support of the Senate and Gov. John Bel Edwards, so many believe that once the House Finance committee signs off on the measure, voters will get their chance in October to approve or disapprove.

Sen. Martiny estimates that legal sports betting could bring the state anywhere from USD 30 million to USD 60 million per year. Without full mobile betting, which this current bill has restricted, the ceiling is lower for the state’s expected revenue.

Louisiana lawmakers expect to have the final law approved by voters in October so casinos can start taking bets in early 2020.