he measure by Kenner Republican Sen. Danny Martiny was sent to the full Senate with a 3-1 vote Tuesday from a Senate judiciary committee. Senate Bill 153 would legalize betting on college and professional sports at Louisiana's 15 riverboat casinos, the land-based casino in New Orleans and four racetracks.
At the first hearing for his SB 153, which would legalize sports betting but with a limited mobile component, Martiny more than once told the Senate Judiciary B Committee that he knows mobile is where the money is, but Louisiana lawmakers are unlikely to go for it.
“I’m trying to keep the bill as simple as possible, I tried as best as I could to mirror what is going on in our neighboring states, like Mississippi,” Martiny said in introducing his bill at the committee hearing Tuesday. “But my bill does not go as far as Mississippi with regard to mobile gaming. I’m trying to address that in a very limited way, even though I do know that the future of sports betting is in mobile.”
Similar legislation failed to gain traction last year, but Martiny hopes a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing sports betting, combined with legalization of the wagering in Mississippi and Arkansas, could change minds. "We're trying to figure out how to crawl and these people are sprinting," Martiny said of Louisiana's neighbors.
"I want to see it in Caddo Parish and Bossier Parish," stated Sen. Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport, who said casinos there were losing customers to Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Supporters say gamblers are finding ways to wager with Louisiana losing out on taxing the activity. Martiny estimated sports betting could generate between USD 40 million and USD 60 million annually for the state. He believes tax revenue generated by sports betting should primarily go toward funding early childhood education with a smaller percentage possibly dedicated to combating compulsive gambling.
New Orleans Democratic Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who revealed a gambling addiction last month, said she isn't anti-gambling but she voted against the bill. She said a portion of any new gambling revenue should go toward the state's compulsive gambling fund. "I hope people don't have to go through the pain I have with this disease," she said.
Opponents echoed her concerns. Among them were the Family Forum and the Louisiana Baptists. "(Compulsive gambling) is a huge problem in this state," said Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptists, describing legalizing sports betting as a massive expansion of gambling. The Rev. David Cranford of First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula said any expansion of gambling "will cost lives."
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he will consider signing a bill legalizing sports betting if it reaches his desk.