The stakes are high for sports betting fans in Louisiana this election cycle. The state is one of three in the US that will give its voters the chance to approve legal sports betting in a referendum.
Voters in the state, along with those of Maryland and South Dakota, will be given the option of saying Yes or No to a legal sports betting market, although as in those other two states, the voters of Louisiana will likely face a long wait before such a market is launched. A vote for Yes, though representing a significant moment for the state, will have to be followed by a good deal of legal wrangling as the Louisiana legislature gets to grips with implementing the voters’ will.
The basic question on the ballot for Louisiana voters is a simple one, but it reflects a significant difference from many other states that have gone down this road. The question asks whether sports betting should be approved within the voter’s parish.
This is because Louisiana is unusual in that legal sports betting has to be approved by each individual parish – the Louisiana equivalent of county – rather than state-wide. Potentially this could mean that, for example, Orleans Parish could legalize betting on the sport while others did not, allowing sports bettors to bet in the city of New Orleans, but nowhere else in the state.
If the voters of Louisiana opt to legalize sports betting, there is still a long way to go before the new economic sector is up and running. The speed with which sports betting could be launched in the state depends on how quickly the legislature gets to grips with the issue in 2021.
Unlike with the two other states that are considering legalization in this electoral cycle, Louisiana will need to pass two bills before sports betting can launch. The first step is to pass an enabling law that will provide clear detail on the rules of the market, but there will also have to be a bill covering taxation.
This dual requirement has caused a delay in other areas in the past. For example, despite a public vote and the passing of a tax bill in 2018, daily fantasy sports contests are still not live in the state.
On the face of it, Louisiana is currently at a disadvantage when it comes to sports betting, as two of its neighboring states, Arkansas and Mississippi, have legalized sports betting markets, which means residents have to cross the border to bet, depriving the state coffers of much-needed tax revenue.
But the current situation in the sports betting sectors in those neighboring states also provides an opportunity. Neither Mississippi nor Arkansas permits mobile betting, which means that bettors have to go to land-based casino venues to place their bets. With mobile betting likely to be a key part of any Louisiana sports betting legislation, there is the potential for the state to turn the tables on their neighbors and attract mobile betting fans from those areas.
The potential of sports betting in Louisiana has not been lost on a number of betting operators. The campaign Louisiana Wins, which is promoting a Yes vote, has been funded by a string of leading betting companies, including Caesars, Penn National, DraftKings, and FanDuel.