It has been an interesting month in statehouses all across the U.S. as the issue of legal sports betting has been at the forefront. Of course, passing solid legal sports betting legislation in any state is tough. In fact, we’ve seen two states, Indiana and Illinois, pass their laws in the 11th hour during the final day of their sessions and this was the case yet again in Louisiana last week. Unfortunately, unlike the folks in Indiana and Illinois, the sports bettors of Louisiana will have to wait another year for the opportunity to have legal sports betting in their state.
After some heavy debate back and forth for several days, Louisiana lawmakers failed to pass a sports betting bill on the final day of their session. Plus, to make things even worse, they also failed to approve any legislation for a daily fantasy sports tax mechanism thereby leaving that industry in limbo with no regulation, legality or tax revenue.
The initial purpose of the introduced legislation was to actually establish revenue allocation for DFS. The DFS industry was legalized last year via referendum. However, once the amendments to the bill included legalized sports betting, things went haywire. Both DFS and legal sports betting are touchy issues in Louisiana and smashing them together out of desperation is probably not the most effective way of getting anything accomplished on the two matters, but here we are. In fact, the Louisiana House previously rejected a standalone sports betting bill in committee and bickering between chambers ultimately sunk the effort altogether.
Things Fall Apart
Not too long ago, the passage of a sports betting bill seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Danny Martiny, not only had solid legislation on his hands, but he also had sound support from both sides of the aisle in both chambers. His proposed model for Louisiana sports betting would have authorized sportsbooks for the state’s casinos and race tracks starting in 2020. It required a local referendum in each parish, so Sen. Martiny was merely going to offer residents the chance to decide if that’s what they wanted. They the lobbyists came knocking to truly muck up the works
In late May, the House Appropriations committee front-loaded the bill with the terrible amendments trying to sneak into sports betting legislation in every state. For instance, the inclusion of video poker parlors as sportsbooks and a mandate to use official league data found their way into the bill and divided the support.
Sen. Martiny and other gaming stakeholders saw what was coming and attempted to regain control of the bill. But then House Appropriations adopted both amendments without any objections and retained the bill in committee. This was a huge step backward, to say the least.
With the writing on the wall concerning sports betting. Sen. Martiny then refocused his efforts on DFS legislation. Of course, this is what started it all. During the same committee meeting, Sen. Martiny reached out to members to say he intended to undo the changes by simply amending the DFS issues. He subsequently tried two different amendments, one concerning regulation and the other with taxes.
Much to his credit, this maneuvering got the two bills into conference for the final few hours of the session. However, he was unable to get much further, receiving little support on the matter. Sen. Page Cortez flatly explained the changes to the full chamber: “Danny Martiny’s bill no longer exists.” While the regulation amendment was able to sneak through the adoption process, the Senate did not approve the changes to tax amendment before adjourning.
So, for those keeping score, this means DFS is completely legal and eligible for regulation in Louisiana. However, there is no tax mechanism in place, so the state will be receiving no tax revenue from the industry. That’s right, the Louisiana state government is so dysfunctional, they gave themselves no way to collect taxes on an industry they just regulated. Yikes.
It Won’t Get Easier Either
While it is naive to think that legal sports betting and DFS will never fully be available in Louisiana, it will definitely take some time. This is the second year in a row, they fought to get something done and came up short. Now, their lawmakers don’t return for another session until March, so it’ll be some time before they’ll be able to take up the matter again. Also, term limits will force Sen. Martiny out of office next year, thus creating a vacuum of experience on the issue. He has been the state’s biggest advocate on the matter by far and without his leadership, the chances for legal Louisiana sports betting anytime soon become much, much slimmer.