Louisiana Sports Betting Marches Toward Fall Launch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: The LSU Tigers mascot.
Louisiana regulators opened sportsbook license applications Friday, another key step toward a fall 2021 legal sports betting launch.
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board must license each Louisiana sportsbook operator before it can start accepting wagers. The board approved emergency regulations Thursday that could allow wagering to begin as early as this fall.
Louisiana regulators have not disclosed an official launch date, but Thursday’s rules approval and Friday’s license application opening have officials increasingly confident of a launch during the 2021 football season.
“I can tell you, as we left the legislative session on June 10th, I don’t think that any of us had an inkling that we would be adopting these (rules) this quickly,” said LGCB Chair Ronnie Johns, who took over as board head last month after serving years in the state Senate, shortly before the emergency rules were approved Thursday.
“In all sincerity, it’s been the No. 1 question asked of me as a new chairman, is when sports betting is coming,” Johns said. “I guess my (answer) has been just sit back and wait. It’s being worked on and it’s going to come and it’s going to be done in a very compliant manner.”
Without Thursday’s emergency regulation approval, sports betting’s launch could have been delayed until next year. Officials now have 180 days, starting next Monday, to take public comment and approve permanent rules.
The emergency rule approval is a major boost to future Louisiana sportsbooks. Football is the nation’s most wagered-upon sport and that trend will likely continue in Louisiana, where the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and SEC’s LSU Tigers are the state’s most popular teams.
Louisiana will be the first state in the immediate region to accept a legal online bet outside a casino. Mississippi, which draws sports bettors from the New Orleans metro area, only allows mobile betting within casinos and Arkansas only has a handful of retail-only sportsbooks.
“We are behind the curve with our neighbors to the east of us in Mississippi, but we’re going to try to play catch up very quickly,” Johns said Thursday.
Louisiana’s 2021 sports betting bill, which Johns helped shepherd through the legislature, comes after voters in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved legal online and retail sports wagering on the 2020 ballot. Louisiana will be the first state to restrict betting on the county (or parish) level, though it will be legal in all parishes in or near Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport and all other large metro areas.
Each of the state’s 20 combined riverboat casinos, horse tracks and lone land-based casinos can open up to two online sportsbooks as well as a retail book at their respective properties. The state lottery can also open a mobile app, meaning there could be as many as 41 digital sports betting options in the state.
Eligible bettors age 21 and up physically located in an approved parish can wager without registering in person. Bettors can wager on a wide range of professional as well as college sports teams, including LSU’s football and men’s basketball teams.
Louisiana bettors should expect many top brands to enter the market.
Caesars, which is rebranding the land-based Harrah’s casino near Bourbon Street in New Orleans, signed a multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal to rename the Superdome and is already hiring for its retail sportsbook. The newly launched Caesars sportsbook will almost assuredly be among the first — and most heavily promoted — sportsbooks in Louisiana.
Other major operators including parent companies behind the Barstool Sportsbook, TwinSpires and B Connected, all of which already operate Louisiana gaming facilities, are also expected to launch. With a plethora of available licenses, other leading and growing brands including PointsBet, BetRivers and WynnBet are also expected to enter the market.