By Ted O’Neil | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards this week signed legislation allowing sports betting after voters in 55 of the state’s 64 parishes cast ballots in favor of it in a referendum last fall.
The laws take effect July 1 with the expectation that everything will be in place by the time football season starts.
Louisiana becomes the 32nd state to permit wagering on sports.
The three pieces of legislation received a great deal of support from lawmakers. Senate Bill 247 passed 78-15 in the state Senate and 33-3 in the state House, while House Bill 142 passed unanimously in both chambers, 93-0 and 35-0. Those two bills put in place the process for casinos to apply for the necessary licenses, build sportsbook parlors on site for in-person gambling and work with contractors to allow for betting using smartphones or laptop computers.
Edwards three weeks ago signed House Bill 697 into law, which set up the taxing and fee structure. It passed the Senate 78-24 and the House 32-4.
“SB247 fulfills the wishes of the citizens in the 55 parishes that approved the referendum last fall to allow sports wagering and HB142 will help direct funding derived from this activity to early childhood education,” Senate President Page Cortez said in a statement.
The state’s 20 existing casinos, primarily on riverboats along the Mississippi and one in New Orleans, will need to pay $250,000 to apply for a license. If approved, it will cost them an additional $500,000 for a five-year license.
The bills also allow the Louisiana Lottery Corp. to place betting kiosks in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Those kiosks, along with betting from phones and computers, will only be allowed in the 55 parishes that approved the referendum.
Bets will be taxed at 10% placed at casinos and 15% for those done via phone or computer. The taxes will apply to money left over after winning bets are paid.
Neighboring Mississippi, which allowed sports betting in 2018, said the state took in $466,596 in taxes last month on $31.6 million in bets.
A quarter of the taxes Louisiana collects, up to $20 million, will go to the state’s Early Childhood Education Fund. Another 12% will be split among the parishes that approved the referendum, and 2%, up to $500,000, will go to the state’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Fund. Racetracks will get 2.5% to go toward prize money, and the rest will go into the state’s general fund.