Two pre-filed bills in Louisiana could bring legal sports betting to the state in 2020.

  • Two State Senators in Louisiana have pre-filed sports betting legislation for the 2020 session.
  • The proposed bills would put a sports betting referendum on the November election ballot.
  • A similar proposal failed in 2019, but key changes for 2020 could result in a better outcome.

BATON ROUGE, La. – Two State Senators have pre-filed legislative proposals for legalized sports betting in Louisiana. With the first Louisiana legislative session of 2020 set to begin in March, this could be the first step on the path toward legalizing sports betting for 2021.

Cameron Henry, a representative of Louisiana’s 9th district for State Senate, pre-filed Senate Bill 130. Fellow State Senator Kirk Talbot, representing the 10th district, pre-filed Senate Bill 66.

Both proposals would put a referendum on the Fall 2020 ballot that would allow voters from each parish in Louisiana to decide whether or not to allow sports betting in their communities.

With this news, the outlook for legal Louisiana sports betting improved drastically.

Governor John Bel Edwards’s reelection in November of last year helped ensure that statewide betting legalization would remain a top priority for Louisiana lawmakers. Edwards is a strong supporter of gambling expansion, with a consistent track record of supporting measures like those proposed by Henry and Talbot.

2019’s Louisiana Sports Betting Proposal – What Went Wrong?

There was a similar push to legalize Louisiana sports betting in 2019, but fell apart ate in the committee process after two last-minute amendments drastically changed the structure and impact of the bill.

One of the amendments sounded fine on paper—language requiring that all data for sportsbooks originate from official league sources. Supporters of the original bill argued that this would ultimately result in sportsbooks being charged for data that should be freely available.

The other amendment essentially rewrote the entire bill so that it would authorize 2,800 video poker parlors to convert their poker machines into sports betting kiosks. The initial bill proposal was only intended to apply to Louisiana’s 20 casinos and race tracks.

The decision to pivot toward a citizens’ referendum was a positive development for legalization efforts. It delays contentious discussions about how precisely to regulate sports betting and defers the ultimate decision on whether or not to authorize sports betting to legislators’ constituents.

Assuming there are no more late surprise amendments this year, odds on one of these bills passing are good.

With approval from the Governor’s office and a high degree of popularity among state citizens, legalized sports betting in Louisiana doesn’t appear to face any extraordinary hurdles.

If a sports betting bill does pass, it would be another feather in the cap of Gov. Edwards, who has managed to turn a $2 billion statewide budget deficit into a $500 million surplus in his first three years in office.

Tax revenues from legalized sports betting would likely increase that surplus even further.

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