Sports betting overwhelmingly approved in EBR, but rollout hinges on Legislature

    A push to legalize betting on football games and other sports overwhelmingly passed in East Baton Rouge Parish, winning more than two-thirds of the vote. However, the state won’t be able to reap the benefits of an expected revenue boost until at least mid-2021, after the Legislature decides how the program will be taxed and regulated, which could cause some controversy.

    Though East Baton Rouge was among 47 of the state’s 64 parishes to endorse a 2018 ballot initiative to legalize online sports fantasy games for cash prizes, yesterday’s proposal saw a larger margin of victory in the parish, winning 68% of the vote compared to 61% two years ago. 

    “A lot of details still have to be worked out, but last night’s vote sent a clear mandate for this to be allowed,” says Richard Carbo, a consultant for the pro-sports wagering Louisiana Wins political action committee. “We had a solid message: This is revenue that Louisiana is missing out on, and it’s going to other states. It’s also something everyone is already doing. The message resonated.”

    Louisiana Wins was able to begin “aggressively campaigning” in early September, says Carbo, ultimately raising $2.05 million, according to campaign finance reports. Its two biggest donors were DraftKings and FanDuel, which together contributed more than half of the total amount raised.

    It’s unclear how much revenue Louisiana could stand to gain from legalizing sports betting. However, Carbo says the state is losing an estimated $330 million a year in taxable revenue, citing a recent study commissioned by the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

    The big question for the Legislature, as local casino operators and video poker lobbyists previously told Daily Report, is whether internet and smartphone wagers will be allowed.

    Supporters of online betting tend to argue that the more accessible sports betting is, the more revenue it will generate for state services. They point to states like New Jersey, which allow wagering via mobile devices and raise significantly more money than states like Mississippi, which limit wagering to casinos.

    Meanwhile, opponents tend to argue that more accessibility will cause greater problems for people addicted to gambling and will make Louisiana too dependent on a contentious practice.