Louisiana House Sends Sports Betting Bill to Senate After Approval

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The Louisiana House of Representatives has approved a sports betting bill this week after some delay and with several amendments.

HB 697 was passed by a 77-24 majority on Monday. Rep. John Stefanski’s proposal empowers the Louisiana Lottery to conduct in-person and online sports betting and set a tax on the industry.

After a five-day delay, HB 697 had its third reading on Monday, when it was passed with some amendments and additions.

The bill now heads to the Senate for a potential final approval before it will be sent to the Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature, a requisite for any legislative proposal to become a law.

Meanwhile, Senate President Patrick Cortez is looking to push his regulatory proposal, SB 202.

Key Details of Louisiana Sports Betting Bill

Besides setting the tax and fee structure for Louisiana sports betting, HB 697 also allows bars and restaurants to offer sports betting via the state lottery.

The bill levies a 10% tax on retail betting and 15% on mobile betting. Stefanski’s measure originally called for an 18% tax rate for mobile betting before the final approved bill reduced it to a 15% rate.

While convenience stores are opted out, retail establishments with a Class A retail license, where alcohol can be sold, can apply for a sports betting kiosk.

The Sugar State will issue 20 licenses to 15 existing casinos and five racinos, with two mobile skins per license. The state allows required the tax and fee bill to initiate in the House, prompting Stefanski to write HB 697, which also has 13 co-authors.

In 2020, 55 of Louisiana’s 65 parishes approved sports betting, allowing the state legislature to set the ground rules for the new industry.

What Happened on House Floor on Monday?

During the floor debate Monday, a lawmaker asked how the Louisiana sports betting bill would help restaurants and bars recover from the pandemic.

Stefanski explained that’s why he drafted the bill in a way to include lottery to partner with a sports betting operator for online operation, and provide kiosks in retail venues.

“That’s why it was essential to find some element of retail. We wanted these kiosks,” Stefanski said. He added some bettors might not like to download an app or link their credit cards. Instead, they might prefer to place a bet while sitting at the bar. “There’s an avenue for that … I see it as a benefit to the retail.”

The bill authorizes the lottery must partner with an operator to handle the wagers in a move that Stefanski believes will ensure the lottery does not lose any money.

When asked by Rep. Raymond Crews how sports betting changes things for the state, Stefanski said it would bring be financially viable for the state.

Stefanski believes Louisiana can generate $20 million annually in sports betting revenue.

What’s Next?

Senate President Cortez will now attempt to incorporate HB 697, his bill and appropriations bill through the Senate. Cortez’s proposal would bring up to 41 skins through 20 sports betting licenses, including one license for the lottery.

However, legalized sports betting could take months to arrive in Louisiana. For example, state voters approved Daily Sports in 2018 but regulations were not approved until December 2020.

Currently, there are two Senate bills SB 202 and SB 195 alive in the upper chamber, awaiting their fates. Both propose online betting.

The 2021 State Senate adjourns on June 10.

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