Louisiana would expand gambling on horse racing under bill


Wells Bayou, left, ridden by jockey Florent Geroux, took an early lead and held off NY Traffic to win he 107th running of the $1,000,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby horse race, Saturday, March 21, 2020, at a fanless Fair Grounds race course in New Orleans.  (Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography, Fair Grounds Race Course via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s off-track betting parlors would be able to add hundreds of new slot-like machines, under legislation that won final passage and awaits a decision from the governor.

Sen. Gary Smith, a Norco Democrat, said his bill would generate new money to help the state’s horse racing industry. But the Advocate reports it’s not clear if the state will gain more revenue from the gambling expansion.

The Senate voted 32-3 for the measure Tuesday, a day after the House agreed to the legislation with an 85-11 vote. The legislative session ended Thursday.

The proposal would allow gambling machines known as historical horse racing at the off-track betting operations. The machines allow players to bet on past races by getting the odds for the different horses but without knowing when or where the race took place.

The players’ losses would fund higher purses, which supporters say would attract better horses and more betting to the state’s racetracks.

The New Orleans Fairgrounds operates 13 off-track betting parlors. Louisiana’s three other tracks — Delta Downs in Vinton, Evangeline Downs in Opelousas and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City — are allowed to have up to five OTBs apiece but operate only three among them.

Under Smith’s bill, each off-track betting site would be limited to 50 historic horse racing machines, and they would have to win the approval of parish voters to open OTBs in parishes that haven’t previously approved the facilities.

Republican Senate President Page Cortez pushed passage of the bill. The Advocate reports Cortez’s next-door neighbor and former legislative colleague, Joel Robideaux, is registered as a lobbyist for ELS Gaming, which has provided the machines in other states.


The bill is filed as Senate Bill 209.

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