The campaign backed by Baton Rouge casinos will give individual parishes in Louisiana the power to legalise sports betting
Baton Rouge’s gaming industry is discreetly pushing a campaign for a proposition that would allow individual parishes to determine whether they would want to legalise sports betting on football games and other contests. However, many questions are still awaiting a reply and are not expected to be answered until the next legislative conference in spring.
The majority of lobbyists and casino officials understand that the odds of such a proposal going through in East Baton Rouge is highly in their favor. During 2018, East Baton Rouge was among 47 of the state’s 64 parishes that voted to legalise online sports fantasy games for cash prizes.
DraftKings and FanDuel are the two largest donors to Louisiana Wins so far, donating more than 50% of the $2.05 million. These two groups are leading the charge for this proposition together with local casinos, who are also contributing to the political action committee but to a lesser extent.
General manager Kim Ginn states that Penn National Gaming, the parent company of L’Auberge Casino and Hotel, donated $334,000 to Louisiana Wins and is “fully supporting the Nov. 3 ballot question as part of a broad coalition of gaming licensees in Louisiana,” In accordance to the campaign finance report, gaming licensees in Louisiana also include Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming Corp. and BetMGM LLC.
Meanwhile, Belle of Baton Rouge General Manager, Jim Rigot (pictured) is confident that the ballot item will be approved in EBR but he suspects that the final determining factor will be down to the Legislature to establish the rules of engagement, including the tax structure and specific roll out. Rigot outlined that “For us, the big question is, will it be restricted to brick-and-mortar, or are they going to offer it to mobile users?” He further added that “In New Jersey, they allow you to wager anywhere as long as you’re within the state borders, which they can monitor through a GPS tracking system. In Mississippi, you have to go into a casino to make a bet.”
Rigot foresees that the state will release sport betting in several stages, following the model in New Jersey. Firstly, by offering exclusivity to bricks-and-mortar before eventually expanding it to mobile applications. Rigort also outlined that “it is only a matter of time” for Louisiana to embrace these new changes.
Officials have even more questions when it comes to the potential of sports wagering to go fully mobile.
Lobbyist Alton Ashy expresses that the video poker industry does not hold an official ranking on the sports betting item, with concerns arising from the industry due to DraftKings and FanDuel pushing for gaming to fully move to mobile. “That would be problematic for us,” Ashy says. “Our position is that if sports betting is supposed to drive foot traffic to local establishments, whether it’s a riverboat, truck stop, restaurant or bar, then somehow or another, those local establishments need to benefit from it—and not just from a tax revenue standpoint. We’re taking a wait-and-see approach.”
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