Sports betting is on its way to Louisiana, eventually. In June 2020, Governor Edwards signed legislation that will put a statewide referendum on the November 2020 ballot asking the residents of each parish if they would like to authorize sports betting in their locales.
Assuming at least one parish votes yes, the legislature will then need to craft new legislation to regulate the industry for sports betting to commence. The speed at which that happens remains to be seen. Louisiana took a similar path to legalizing daily fantasy sports, and nearly two years later still has not passed the accompanying legislation needed for DFS to begin.
Moving beyond sports betting, other forms of legal gambling in Louisiana include casinos on tribal land, riverboat casinos, racetrack-casinos, parimutuel horse racing betting and the state lottery. Online gambling options are currently restricted to parimutuel horse racing betting.
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Strict and broad anti-gambling laws make Louisiana an unwelcoming environment for most forms of online betting. In fact, Louisiana is one of just a few jurisdictions in which online gambling is specifically prohibited. The relevant law is so broad in its language that it makes almost no distinction between full-fledged online gambling or any other form of gaming that involves money.
LA Rev Stat § 14:90.3 reads as follows:
Gambling by computer is the intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting as a business of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit when accessing the Internet, World Wide Web, or any part thereof by way of any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or any server.
The punishment for committing the crime of “gambling by computer” is a fine of up to $500 and up to six months imprisonment. Nobody has to date been charged with this crime.
Sports Betting in Louisiana
Louisiana voters are set to weigh in on sports betting in a public referendum that will be held during the November 2020 election.
The ballot measure will ask voters in each parish if they would like to legalize sports betting within the boundaries of the parish. Senate Bill 130 was approved by the legislature in May 2020 and signed by Governor Edwards the following month to add the following question to the November 2020 ballot:
Proposition to Authorize Sports Wagering Activities
Shall sports wagering activities and operations be permitted in the parish of [parish name]?
Yes ( )
No ( )
If voters in one or more parish vote yes, the Louisiana legislature will then be free to move forward with additional legislation to implement regulations, a licensing process and tax rate.
SB 130 is short on details as it hinges on the legislature passing additional legislation with more details. The bill does not even state whether Louisiana will authorize retail sportsbooks, mobile betting or both. However, SB 130 does delegate regulation and oversight to the Louisiana Gaming Board.
One important thing to keep in mind is the approval of sports betting in one or more parishes does not instantly legalize sports betting. As SB 130 notes:
…sports wagering shall not be authorized by the Louisiana Gaming Board in such parish until state laws providing for the licensing, regulation and taxation of sports wagering activities and operations are enacted and become effective.
As was seen with the legalization of daily fantasy sports, a yes vote to a gaming activity does not guarantee the legislature will act in a timely manner to implement the activity. Voters in 47 parishes approved daily fantasy sports in the 2018 election and the legislature still has not managed to pass a law that would implement fantasy sports.
However, getting sports betting to a referendum was an important step along the way and will most likely result in legal sports betting coming to Louisiana. When that will happen and what form sports betting will take remain to be seen.
Horse Racing Betting Sites in Louisiana
In-person and online racing betting are legal under Louisiana law. The Louisiana Racing Commission oversees racetracks, off-track betting facilities and the conduct of parimutuel wagering within the state.
Advance deposit wagering (online/mobile betting) is specifically authorized by LA Rev Stat § 4:149.5, which delegates the regulation of online betting to the Louisiana Racing Commission.
Legal Racing Betting Sites in Louisiana
A handful of US-based racing betting sites offer their services in Louisiana for customers 18 and older. Each of these sites is headquartered in the United States and adheres to federal gaming laws to offer customers a legal, safe experience.
Other than the obvious advantage of convenience, online horse betting provides the advantage of track selection. Each of these sites covers hundreds of racetracks around the world. You can bet on quarter horses, thoroughbreds, harness races and even greyhounds in the case of BetAmerica. You get paid full track odds and can take comfort from the fact that you’re doing business with companies located on US soil.
Racetracks in Louisiana
Louisiana is home to four racetracks with attached casinos that are collectively referred to as racinos.
Louisiana OTB Locations
Off-track betting facilities (OTBs) are legal and licensed in Louisiana. Each OTB is associated with a specific racetrack and the Louisiana Racing Commission maintains an up-to-date list of OTBs here.
- Metairie Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Houma Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Kenner Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Covington Fair Grounds OTB
- Gretna Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Elmwood Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- LaPlace Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Thibodaux Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Chalmette Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Boutte Fair Grounds OTB
- Westwego Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Destrehan Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Meraux Fair Grounds OTB Casino
- Races & Aces Henderson
- Races & Aces Eunice
- Races & Aces St. Martinville
- Louisiana Downs OTB
Online Gambling in Louisiana
Online gambling is not regulated in Louisiana and there are no efforts underway at this time to change that. Lawmaker have looked at legalizing online poker and casino games in the past but have not revisited the issue recently.
In 2013, State Representative Mike Huval filed HCR3 to request the state study the potential impact of legalizing and regulating gaming. In the bill, Huval acknowledge that citizens are already placing bets online with offshore providers. With people playing without safeguards and the state missing out on potential tax revenue, he wanted to see if licensing online casinos and poker sites could make it safer for the players while simultaneously raising revenue for the state.
The bill sought to obtain input from the governor, gaming control board and state police gaming division. State police and the gaming commission responded saying that regulation presented a number of challenges and issues worth considering. They also concluded that if the state did pursue regulation, it would need to figure a way to detect violations of gaming law, set up a system to ensure regulatory compliance and implement safeguards for gaming addicts and underage gamblers.
A new effort to legalize online gambling materialized in 2018 with the introduction of SB 322 seeking to legalize online gambling at the parish level by calling for every parish in Louisiana to hold a public referendum asking voters whether or not they approve of online gambling.
SB 322 was more of a placeholder than anything at that point in time as it was quite short on details. Besides calling for parish-by-parish referendums, the bill called for a minimum age of 21 to play, licenses to be issued to existing casinos and for the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to oversee the industry. SB 322 was eventually shelved by lawmakers before progressing very far.
Fantasy Sports Sites
Louisiana voters approved fantasy sports in 47 of 64 parishes with a referendum measure that appeared on the November 2018 ballot. All the state’s major population centers approved the measure as well to potentially make daily fantasy sports legal for more than 90% of Louisiana residents.
Nothing changed on the ground for sports fans immediately because the referendum only paved the way for lawmakers to introduce legislation authorizing and taxing daily fantasy sports in the parishes that approved the proposal.
Sadly, lawmakers dropped the ball in a big way during the 2019 legislative session. A fantasy sports bill actually came very close to passing, but Sen. Danny Martiny filibustered the bill at the last minute after House members removed amendments form the bill that would have also authorized sports betting.
“I don’t think this is the way you do business,” said Martiny.” I don’t like the way that I was treated. I would feel the same way if any of my colleagues were treated this way.”
This set back daily fantasy legislation by at least two years in Louisiana. Voters clearly want access to licensed and regulated fantasy sports, but lawmakers have failed to implement the will of the people. Daily fantasy contests remain prohibited in Louisiana at this time.
If the law does change, FanDuel () and DraftKings () will almost certainly be the first fantasy sites to enter the Louisiana market once all regulations are in place. Both sites contributed to the campaign that sought to convince residents to approve the measure and both have the technology in place to ensure they block residents from the 17 parishes that voted no.
Which Louisiana Parishes Voted to Allow Fantasy Sports?
Most of Louisiana’s populous parishes opted to legalize daily fantasy sports during the November 2018 election. According to some reports, 92% of Louisianans live in parishes that opted in.
The state legislature failed the follow the referendum with legislation to legalize DFS, so all fantasy sites remain prohibited across the board – even in parishes that voted yes.
For posterity’s sake, here’s a look at the parishes that voted yes and those that voted no.
Parishes that voted in favor of DFS
|Claiborne||Concordia||De Soto||East Baton Rouge|
|East Carroll||East Feliciana||Evangeline||Iberia|
|Rapides||Red River||St. Bernard||St. Charles|
|St. Helena||St. James||St. John the Baptist||St. Landry|
|St. Martin||St. Mary||St. Tammany||Tangipahoa|
|Webster||West Baton Rouge||West Feliciana|
Parishes that voted against DFS: