A pair of gambling bills are on the table in Louisiana that would expand the state’s already robust casino industry.
Last week, a Republican lawmaker introduced Senate Bill 322, which would legalize online gambling, and Senate Bill 266, which would allow for sports betting should the U.S. Supreme Court strike down a federal law that has for decades banned it outside of Nevada.
The internet casino bill is similar to those that passed in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Louisiana has been looking at online poker since at least 2013. As for sports betting, Louisiana is among about 20 states that have moved to be ready for the activity should the Supreme Court allow it and state voters OK it.
In Louisiana, the need for revenue could drive gambling expansion.
“We need to come up with a stable revenue stream to run our government,” State Sen. Danny Martiny, author of the bills, told ksla.com. “We haven’t been doing that. We’re doing temporary sales tax and sun-setting this and sun-setting that. That’s just not the way to do it.”
According to Martiny, the fact that neighboring Mississippi has already passed a sports betting measure for its casinos could provide momentum for his legislative efforts.
“I think there is a good chance that we would consider sports book betting because […] Beau Rivage and all those Mississippi casinos—they already approved it and that will cut into the New Orleans market,” Martiny said. “Arkansas is also looking to approve the same and cut into the Shreveport market.”
The stakes are high. In Louisiana, commercial casino gaming revenue of $2.53 billion in 2016 was down four percent compared to 2015, according to a 2017 survey by the American Gaming Association. The AGA report said that Louisiana, home to 20 commercial casinos, had three of the top 20 casino markets in the country (Lake Charles, Shreveport/Bossier City, New Orleans).
Though online gambling and sports betting are separate legislative issues, there is obviously synergy between the two. Research group Eilers & Krejcik Gaming has estimated that Americans bet as much as $60 billion each year on offshore, unregulated gambling sites. The illicit sports betting market in America, when you also factor in underground domestic bookmakers, is worth around $150 billion each year in terms of wagers, according to the AGA.
As for online poker, Louisiana joins the likes of Michigan and New York with active efforts to authorize the virtual card games. All four states that have already legalized could eventually share their player pools to create a robust market. Regulated online poker in New Jersey, so far the largest market, generates about $2 million a month for the Atlantic City casinos.
Pennsylvania, home to the nation’s second-largest commercial casino market, approved online poker late last year and is still in the processing of licensing the online gaming companies.