Louisiana legislators approve letting voters consider legalizing sports betting in their areas

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In this June 27, 2019 photo, a clerk takes a bet from a gambler at the new sportsbook at Bally’s casino in Atlantic City, N.J. New Jersey surpassed Nevada in terms of sports betting volume in May, taking the national lead for the first time. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

BATON ROUGE, La. (The Center Square/The Livingston Parish News) – Louisiana voters likely will have a chance to decide if sports betting will be legalized in their parishes.

The Louisiana House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 71-24 to approve Senate Bill 130, which provides for a local option election on the November ballot. Both houses of the legislature now have voted for referendum, and Gov. John Bel Edwards has expressed support for legalizing sports betting.

The legislation does not spell out who would be allowed to bet on sports or where bets would be taken, nor does it set taxes or fees. Residents would vote to allow it or not in their parishes, and lawmakers would work out the details during next year’s fiscal session.

“I know sports wagering is a difficult issue for a lot of members,” state Sen. Cameron Henry, the Metairie Republican who sponsored the bill, told a House committee. “This way you’ll be able to know [after the November election] exactly what your constituents want you to do.”

The Gaming Control Board would have oversight once lawmakers set the rules.

Legalizing sports betting was one of the most contentious issues discussed during last year’s session, though the concept has faced far less opposition this year. Supporters’ main goal last year was to help Louisiana’s casinos compete with casinos in other states that already provide sports betting.

Supporters also argue that people are betting on sports already, so lawmakers may as well legalize it and tax it to raise revenue. Gambling opponents say any expansion of gaming leads to more problem gambling, ultimately creating costs for state taxpayers that far outweigh the benefits.

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

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