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With states like Iowa recently legalizing sports betting, eyes have now turned to states such as Louisiana to see if they will do the same before the end of their legislative sessions.
State lawmakers took the next step Tuesday night as a Senate-approved measure passed the House’s Criminal Justice Committee.
The approval comes as a bit of a surprise as the committee did have several anti-gambling members who vowed to kill the legislation.
The measure passed by the count of 11-6 and now the bill moves ahead for review by the powerful and conservative House budget committee.
Despite the remaining obstacles, optimism is high that voters will get a chance to approve sports betting in the state in October.
Republican Senator Danny Martiny’s bill would permit sports betting on a variety of games at the professional and collegiate level at the state’s 16 casinos and four horse tracks.
Sen. Martiny claims his bill is a self-defense measure for the state to knock down illegal gambling in the state.
“This is an industry that currently operates underground. It’s here,” Sen. Martiny said.
“We have all of the ills of (sports gambling), but none of the benefits, none of the financial benefits.”
The bill will funnel its proceeds to the state’s underfunded early childhood education program.
Attempts were made in committee to add “poison pill” amendments by representatives who do not want sports gambling in the state.
These unpopular amendments would have added truck stop betting and licensed hundreds of location for video poker.
But Democrat Rep. Ted James fought to kill the amendments and was successful, leading to the committee’s final approval.
Opponents to the sports betting bill continue to contend that state-sponsored wagering on events will lead to addictive behavior that will tear apart families.
Rep. Valarie Hodges told the committee that legalized gambling preys upon the less fortunate and Louisiana residents are best served by finding other ways to generate revenue.
Ms. Hodges said that the state should find alternative methods instead of looking for funding “off the backs of other people who are losing money.”
“What we legalize, we legitimize,” Hodges warned fellow members of the committee.
In the end, the bipartisan committee passed the legislation, sharing the sentiments expressed by Democrat Rep. Barbara Norton.
“Regardless of what we do here today, those who want to gamble are going to gamble.” Rep. Norton said.
The bill has the support of the Senate and Gov. John Bel Edwards so many believe that once the House Finance committee signs off on the measure, voters will get their chance in October to approve or disapprove.
Sen. Martiny estimates that legal sports betting could bring the state anywhere from $30 million to $60 million per year.
Critics argue that those estimates are perhaps too high and will not be known until betting begins in the state.
Without mobile betting, which this current bill has outlawed, the ceiling is lower for the state’s expected revenue.
Louisiana lawmakers hope to have the final law approved by voters in October so casinos can start taking bets in early 2020.
Find more information about the status of legal sports betting in the U.S, in our US Betting Guide.
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