In the past, sports betting has been a bone of contention in Louisiana. The bills have routinely failed to move forward over non-stop infighting.
That was then, but this is now, and now the state is in dire need of revenue as it continues to fight off the coronavirus. The state has over 30,000 confirmed cases, with close to 2,000 deaths from the virus.
It is believed that the virus started to circulate during the February 25 Mardi Gras celebration. It is there that revelers gathered for the annual celebration. The thousands of people who attended in very close proximity to each other made for an environment ideal for the spread of the virus, said health officials.
Two different bills sponsored by two Republican State Senators have been making their way around the state house and senate without any success. That changed on Tuesday, as both bills passed the Judiciary Committee for the first time since the bills first surfaced in late 2018. Senate Bill 378 by Senator Ronnie Johns and Senate Bill SB 130 by Senator Cameron Henry easily passed.
Two Sports Betting Bills Will Be On The November Ballot
The next step for the two bills is the November elections, where these bills will be on the ballot for the voters of Louisiana to decide. If the voters decide that they are in favor of sports betting, the bills would be put before the individual parishes for approval.
There are 64 parishes in Louisiana, which are the same as counties in other states. The largest parishes are East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parishes.
Louisiana has over 50 different gambling locations, including casinos and racetracks. Currently, sports betting at any of those physical locations is not legalized.
Senator Johns participated in a Zoom interview on Wednesday with the largest newspaper in the state, The Advocate. Johns said all of the casinos and racetracks in the state have been closed for six weeks or longer.
The state, Johns said, has lost over $100 million in tax revenue, with the casinos and racetracks being shut down. Johns said that he’s very relieved that the two sports betting bills have finally advanced.
He reiterated, “It’s not under the best set of circumstances that those bills passed, but in the end, it will be a godsend to recoup some of the losses.”
Sports Betting Will Help To Fund State Programs
Both of the senators said on Wednesday that they have every reasonable expectation that, come November, the voters will approve sports betting. They have been conducting virtual town halls with their constituents during the quarantine.
Johns told the paper that the feedback he has received from voters is that, although they may have had apprehension in the past, now they know the state must have the funds for programs.
If all of the physical gaming locations in the state launch sports betting, the state could raise a half-billion or more in tax revenue in a year. Senator Henry stated, “We have had gambling in Louisiana for almost 100 years; we don’t know what that will look like when the shutdown is over. People may be scared to go into a casino and gamble due to fears of catching the virus.”
The two bills that just passed committee allow for mobile sports betting too.
Henry said, “Since online sports betting will be available, that could take care of fears of going into a casino to place bets. Everyone will benefit as soon as sports betting is available.”