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August 19, 2019

The legislation received so many amendments that even casinos withdrew support

Louisiana's sports betting bill nearly buried by House Committee

Louisiana's sports betting bill nearly buried by House Committee
Sen. Danny Martiny said that, because Louisianans are betting on sports in other states or illegally, Louisiana currently gets all of the potential problems associated with gaming expansion and none of the revenue benefits.
United States | 05/29/2019

House Appropriations Committee voted to reject Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Danny Martiny, which would allow the state’s 20 casinos to offer sports wagering. The bill was also caught in a revenue-sharing fight involving horse breeders and racing associations. Even if approved by the House, the legislation would have to go through Senate committee hearings and then get a vote in the upper chamber before the June 6 adjournment.

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ouisiana’s sports betting legislation couldn’t overcome a second round at the House Appropriations Committee. The panel voted Tuesday to reject Senate Bill 153 by Metairie Republican Sen. Danny Martiny, which would allow the state’s 20 casinos to offer wagering on professional and collegiate sporting events. The full House also killed two separate attempts to essentially resurrect the bill, meaning the concept is likely over for the year.

Rep. Joseph A. Marino then went to the House floor to try one of the few moves left by attempting to discharge the Appropriations committee from considering the legislation, which would have circumvented the committee's rejection and allow the full House to vote on the measure, but that move failed on a vote of 48-41. The motion could be brought back later in the session and pass if five more representatives could be persuaded to support the move, which finally didn’t happen.

“This is a bill to legalize sports gambling in Louisiana. It had a fair committee hearing, a long committee hearing,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry said. “To move it out in the condition it is in now would be unjust to everyone.” Another failed possibility aimed to amend the legalization wording from SB153 onto a companion bill that would set up the taxation and regulation of sports betting, which was approved last week by the same committee.

House Bill 587 by Marino, No Party-Gretna, includes a 13% tax on net proceeds from wagering at the state's casinos. Of the total taxes collected on sports betting, 10% would go to help fund early education programs aimed at children from birth to three-year-olds. Licensing fees would go to the Louisiana State Police to pay for the necessary background checks of the betting operations personnel. Two percent of the tax proceeds would go to the parishes where the casinos are located and 1 percent — up to a maximum of $500,000 — would fund help for problem gamblers.

Even if approved by the House, the legislation would have to go through Senate committee hearings, probably two of them, then get a vote in the upper chamber before the June 6 adjournment. Otherwise, the legalization effort is effectively dead for this legislative session.

But the legislation was stuffed by the committee with so many amendments that even the casinos withdrew support. “You have now put enough baggage on this plane that it will not get airborne,” testified Wade Duty, the executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association. After the hearing, Duty said it wasn't any single amendment but all of them put together would make what is a game with a low-profit margin unreasonable. Sports betting itself doesn't raise a lot of money for the casinos, but it serves as another way to attract patrons to the facilities, he said, according to The Advocate.

Lawmakers, many of whom didn’t vote for the bill even after their changes were amended to it, gave the horse racing industry a cut, required that the statistics on which many bets are based to come only from the professional leagues, and opened the door to allow sports betting at the state’s 2,800 video poker establishments, such as truck stops and bars.

Some lawmakers who oppose gaming expansion voted for the increase, knowing the change would make the final version of the bill harder to pass. The bill was also caught in a revenue-sharing fight involving horse breeders and racing associations.

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