Louisiana sports betting implementation delayed with absence of regulator
Louisiana's implementation of sports betting is being delayed by the absence of a gambling regulatory chief, Republican state Senate President Page Cortez said in an interview with USA Today Network Tuesday.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a series of bills by Cortez, Republican Sen. Rick Ward of Port Allen and Republican Rep. John Stefanski of Crowley legalizing the framework for sports betting.
But the Gaming Control Board must promulgate the rules before before the casinos can begin building out sports betting parlors and restaurants and bars can secure kiosks where bets can be placed.
"It's a little bit of a hiccup," Cortez said. "We don't have a Gaming Control Board chair, and until then the board can't promulgate the rules."
Former Chairman Mike Noel resigned as chairman on June 9 rather than face a Senate confirmation hearing where he could have been questioned about his State Police work during the fatal arrest of a Black man whose death remains under investigation.
Edwards' spokesperson Christina Stephen told USA Today Network Tuesday the governor "looks forward to making an appointment sooner rather than later."
"The governor is working to find a commissioner with the right skill and experience to lead during this important time for the gaming industry in Louisiana," Stephens said.
There has been speculation that Edwards is considering Republican Lake Charles Sen. Ronnie Johns for the job.
Johns confirmed Tuesday he and Edwards have spoken about the position.
"It's the governor's call to make, but should he honor me by offering me the position I would very much like to serve," Johnson said. "I think I'd have a lot to offer because the board needs leadership to make sure the industry is compliant, clean and pristine during this critical time."
Cortez said before Noel resigned he told him sports betting could be in place in early 2022, perhaps in time for the Super Bowl. "But that could clearly change now," Cortez said.
When betting is implemented
When sports betting is implemented, it will be the largest gambling expansion in Louisiana since the Legislature established the lottery, casinos and video poker in the early 1990s.
Gambling generated about $600 million in state taxes in 2020.
Components will include Las Vegas style sports books at the state's casinos and racetracks, mobile Internet betting through smartphones and other devices and retail wagering kiosks at restaurants and bars.
Twenty sports book licenses will be available with existing casinos and racetracks having first refusal option. Each of those licenses will include two "skins," which will be used to contract with mobile application providers.
Bars and restaurants will be able to secure retail kiosks to place wagers.
Cortez's bill contains an emergency clause to expedite implementation, but the Gaming Control Board must set the rules before moving forward.
Voters in 55 of Louisiana's 64 parishes approved legalizing sports betting in their communities last fall, but lawmakers had to set up the framework to regulate and tax sports wagers during the spring Legislative Session.
Sports betting will still be prohibited in Caldwell, Catahoula, Franklin, Jackson, LaSalle, Sabine, Union, West Carroll and Winn, the parishes where voters rejected the gaming expansion.
Technology called geofencing will prevent residents in those parishes from accessing mobile sports betting applications.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.