Based on the timeline for daily fantasy sports in the Bayou State, Louisianans shouldn’t expect to be able to legally wager on sporting events until sometime in 2022. Nearly two years after voters approved a measure to legalize the activity in most of the state, a Louisiana DFS tax bill just needs Gov. John Bel Edwards‘ signature to become law.
More possible gambling expansion, specifically wagering on sporting events, could follow the same path. Extenuating circumstances might make the timeline more aggressive, however.
Details on the Louisiana DFS tax bill
Last Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate concurred with the House on HB64. The bill finalizes regulations for DFS in the affected parishes and represents the last necessary step before companies who wish to accept paid entries in those parishes can apply for licensure.
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) will regulate DFS in 48 of the state’s 64 parishes. In 2018, 16 of the state’s more rural parishes voted to maintain the illegal status of DFS.
The primary item in HB64 is the tax rate for licensees. DFS operators will pay the state 8% of aggregate revenue, which is handle minus winnings paid out to contestants.
If Bel Edwards signs the bill, that will clear the way for the LGCB to start accepting license applications. There’s a lot of uncertainty as to how quickly that may happen, however.
Bel Edwards also has to appoint a new chair for the LGCB after the LA Senate declined to confirm the previous chair’s reappointment. That might delay the process of approving DFS licenses.
The best-case scenario would be having licensed DFS operators up and running in time for the next NFL season. If the state is to reap the few hundred thousand dollars in tax revenue it projects this year, offering fantasy football is crucial.
Perhaps of greater consequence for gamblers in LA, legal sports betting might follow a similar timeline. Then again, officials in Baton Rouge might be more aggressive if they get the chance.
Why LA sports wagering may happen faster than DFS
Given the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, Louisiana is facing a budget deficit of $648 million. Legal sports betting is a potential path to addressing that shortfall.
Right now, that’s up to the state’s voters. Similar to the referendum that approved DFS on a parish-by-parish basis in 2018, a ballot measure to legalize wagering on sporting events is up for voters’ consideration this November.
Should any parishes vote to approve the measure, it will again fall on the legislature to draft regulations. The sooner everyone in Baton Rouge can accomplish that task, the sooner the state can start to capture new revenue from activity that’s already ongoing in the state illegally.
The LGCB and legislature need to be careful not to sacrifice a sound regulatory structure for speed, however. There are other considerations like ensuring adequate problem gambling protections that command attention.
While revenue from sports wagering could help the budget deficit, it may not be sufficient to address the entire shortfall on its own. Regardless, there are other reasons to legalize sports betting, such as consumer protections.
Before the New Orleans Saints start their next season, Louisianans may be able to legally play DFS. By the time the 2021-22 New Orleans Saints season begins, they may be able to wager on NFL events as well.