By Drew White, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday that could help Louisiana attract and host major events like the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, military gatherings and national political conventions.
Currently, increases in state taxes generated as a result of certain events held in Louisiana are deposited into a fund to attract more events.
The bill, which passed the Senate 32-4, would streamline the process so Louisiana can provide proof that state funds exist to pay for portions of the projects.
“When it comes to tourism, we know that every dollar that we invest in the tourism industry generates at minimum a $19 return,” said Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma.
“We may not have the big bowl games unless we’re competing for them,” he added.
Some senators were concerned that the bill would unfairly benefit major metropolitan areas like New Orleans and not the rest of the state.
Chabert noted that smaller cities would benefit indirectly from the nationally recognized, high-level events because of the additional revenue generated for Louisiana and the significant positive impact on Louisiana’s economic development.
WWE’s Wrestlemania, classified under the bill as an example of a “major event,” was held in the New Orleans Superdome last month. The event will produce an economic impact of approximately $140 million for Louisiana, according to the nonprofit Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.
Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, presented the bill.
The sports foundations, he said, “are now doing things in a manner that require some confidential negotiations and confidence in the state to have some of that money in place” for attracting major events.
The bill, he said, would establish “high confidence” with organizations like the NBA and the NFL.
Under the bill, the legislature would be more involved in the decision-making process for high-level events. A joint budget committee would meet to approve final applications for an event contract.
The event contract would be made after the committee examined the economic benefits of hosting an event prior to making a bid.
Last month, the House unanimously approved the bill. The bill now returns to the House for further consideration.