Louisiana will not become the next state to legalize sports betting after the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted not a advance a heavily amended version of SB 153. Amendments added on Tuesday would have allowed for sports betting at 2,800 video poker locations across the state and would have mandated the use of official league data.
Bill sponsor Senator Danny Martiny (R-District 10) repeatedly said throughout the process and again on Tuesday that making sports betting an expansion of gaming would kill it. The bill would have required voter approval.
“This bill started out very simply and I want to believe that the amendments were well intentioned, but if your intention is to kill the bill” then leave off the amendments, he said in his closing statement. “This has become an expansion and that was never my intention.”
Second time not a charm
This is the second consecutive session in which Martiny brought forth sports betting legislation in an attempt to level the playing field with neighboring Mississippi, and the second time it was shot down. This time, his bill got through the Senate, but didn’t survive its second House committee hearing.
There is a possibility, according to sources, that sports betting could be folded into a bigger gaming bill, but even if that happens, it appears unlikely that any expansion of gaming will pass in Louisiana this session.
By the end of the 90-minute meeting, lawmakers had voted to expand Martiny’s original bill to include sports betting at video poker locations, causing the state’s casino organization to stand up in opposition to the bill, and require the use of official league data despite opposition from the state’s gaming control board and Martiny. The bill was also amended to include an additional tax for horsemen’s groups, which would have brought the total tax to about 13 percent.
“You would be asking us to pay the second highest tax in the nation (for non lottery-run sports betting) for the worst product in the nation,” said Wade Duty, representing the casino association.
Over the last two sessions, Martiny has been unable to convince his peers that sports betting is a worthy cause. Louisiana found itself in a similar situation nearly three decades ago when Mississippi legalized casino gaming in 1990, and Louisiana lagged behind. While the state legalized casino gaming at about the same time, it was two years later that it legalized a land-based casino in New Orleans, which had the potential to keep gaming dollars in state vs. across the Mississippi border, about an hour away.
Mississippi got the jump on sports betting when it launched at bricks-and-mortar facilities last summer. Some state sportsbooks will experiment with on-site mobile this summer. Martiny, who openly says he has a second home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and gambles there, has been pushing to keep betting dollars in Louisiana.
“It’s happening, it will continue to happen,” Martiny said of Louisianans going out of state to place sports bets. “Those same people that go over to Mississippi and go to Arkansas and blow their paychecks, they come back to Louisiana and fight with their spouses and significant others, and they get arrested. It’s here.
“My intention is very simple, to allow us to compete on a level playing field and get some money for early childhood education. This bill, when and if it passes, will have to go to the people. I don’t like the form that bill is in, but I would hope that you would pass it out of committee so we can continue the discussion.”
Martiny didn’t get his wish.