The launch of legal sports betting in Louisiana has been delayed by Hurricane Ida, but a senior gaming official is optimistic there will be “good news” soon.
Hurricane Ida made landfall in late August in Louisiana, hammering the state with rain and high-speed winds. The storm reportedly caused dozens of deaths in the United States, knocked out power for thousands of people, and damaged many millions of dollars in property and infrastructure.
When the Louisiana Gaming Control Board met virtually on Thursday, members were told Ida had also disrupted the licensing process for the state's first legal sportsbooks.
Part of that process involves the Louisiana State Police, which is responsible for inspecting and ensuring compliance with the state’s sports-betting law, among other duties. Ida’s arrival understandably required the LSP to focus more of their energies on the storm and its aftermath.
“That has been the number one question, board members, that I've gotten, is when are we going to start sports betting,” Chairman Ronnie Johns said during the board’s meeting on Thursday. “And, as was indicated in the presentations, Hurricane Ida did set us back just a little bit. Our Louisiana State Police were actually deployed to disaster recovery but they're back at it full time.”
For now, though, bettors in the state will have to wait a bit longer to wager.
Laying the groundwork
There has already been a waiting period, as voters in 55 of Louisiana's 64 parishes backed a sports betting ballot measure in November 2020. Gov. John Bel Edwards then signed legislation in June that authorized the state’s gaming control board to regulate sports betting and issue up to 20 licenses for online and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
The first crack at those licenses will go to the state’s land-based casino, Harrah’s New Orleans, as well as Louisiana’s 15 licensed riverboats and four live horse-racing tracks. If there are any licenses left, then the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, starting in 2022, can begin considering whether to grant them to video poker facilities and fantasy sports operators.
If there are more applications than the number of licenses available, there would then be a “concealed bid process” for the permits. Licensees will also be allowed to contract out for mobile betting with a licensed “sports wagering platform provider,” but not more than two.
There have already been eight gaming licensees that have submitted applications for sports betting, LSP Major Chuck McNeal told the gaming board on Thursday.
There will be some competition from the Louisiana Lottery Corp. as well, as it will be allowed to take sports wagers via website, mobile app, and retail kiosks. Sports bettors across the state will still need to be 21 or older and be physically located in one of the 55 parishes (similar to counties) that voted in favor of legal sports betting to wager.
Louisiana’s law does allow for the gaming board to issue a temporary sports-wagering license to someone while they consider their application. Those licenses last for six months, although they can be extended once for 90 days.
While there is no concrete timeline yet for issuing either temporary or permanent licenses for legal sports betting, regulators are still making progress. For instance, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board on Thursday approved rulemaking procedures for sports betting.
The regulator had already approved “emergency” sports-betting rules in August, but those can only stay in effect for 180 days before they expire or are extended. The coming rules will be permanent, although they could still be amended.
“Hopefully we’re going to have some good news very soon,” Chairman Johns said of sports betting.