BATON ROUGE, La. - Despite a slow down because of Hurricane Ida, eight casinos as of Thursday have applied to offer sports betting in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, the agency that oversees gambling in the state.
Industry officials had wanted to roll out in-person wagering at a few locations this month.
“Hurricane Ida did set us back just a little bit because Louisiana State Police were deployed to disaster recovery. But they’re back at it full time,” said Ronnie Johns, who chairs the board but has always been a little less optimistic on the timeline than the industry he regulates.
“That has been the number one question that I have gotten,” Johns said, “When are we going to start sports betting?”
Major Chuck McNeal, command inspector for the Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division, said his investigators are working on it. Eight casinos, so far, have applied to begin sports betting under the emergency rules.
The law allows the Big 20 casinos — on 15 riverboats, and at four racetracks as well as Harrah’s in New Orleans — to apply first. The vetting process usually is time consuming.
“We tried to streamline it,” McNeal said.
The 20 casinos and their top executives already have been investigated for suitability and financial stability by State Police because they are licensed in this state. Any changes to their situations since the last review, usually done annually, must be reported and reinvestigated.
“There’s no reason for us to go through a whole, full-blown background again,” McNeal said. “Just making sure nothing has changed.”
What has been taking the longest time is double checking the required processes, such as accounting practices, security arrangements, and other procedures the casinos have to adopt for wagering on sporting events, he said. The casinos are supposed to build out an area with limited access to handle in-person sports betting.
The casinos also will be contracting with suppliers to provide the platforms and software that will allow bettors to place their wagers on a smart phone from wherever they happen to be, provided it is in one of the 55 parishes that approved the game.
Eventually, adults will be able to bet on their cellphones or online or while dining in a restaurant that serves alcohol or in a bar. That’s coming but the industry and their regulators want to get started with in-person wagering in the casinos.
Several of the larger casinos are planning elaborate lounges. Those multi-million dollar build outs will take place while getting set-up in temporary quarters under emergency rules passed last month to jump start sports betting.
The permanent rules have to go through a months-long process that allows for input from opponents and comment from the public. The Gaming Control Board on Thursday approved a set of permanent regulations that spell out the responsibilities and processes that sports betting gambling has to follow. The long-term versions are fairly close to the temporary rules.
The Board voted to initiate the rulemaking process, which could go on until January.