Place your bets: Sports wagering passes Senate

By Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—Sports gambling is on its way to Louisiana, and legislators have a plan to divvy up the tax money.

           Sen. Rick Ward, a Republican from Port Allen, passed a bill through the Senate with a 33-3 vote. Ward’s measure, Senate Bill 142, will work hand-in-hand with the final legislative rules for sports wagering that are still to be determined.

           “I don’t know when the first deposits would happen,” said Ward. “There’s a provisional license to let this start as early as the fall.”

           Ward added amendments to the bill during the floor meeting detailing just how the money will be distributed:

20% TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

           The bill states that the Education Fund is not to exceed over $10 million in payout from gambling revenue on real sports events. Fantasy sports wagering, a separate type of betting that should be operational in the state before fall, will deposit all of its funds into early education.

10% TO THE PARISHES

           The 55 parishes that approved sports wagering in 2020 will see some of the money return to them. Ten percent of what the state collects will be separated and given to parishes proportionately to the taxes pulled in.

1% TO THE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH & WELLNESS FUND

           The bill creates a fund to invest in comprehensive treatment facilities for individuals with gambling problems.  The state treasurer will have control over the fund.

1% TO THE LOUISIANA STATE RACING COMMISSION

           A question was raised on the floor by Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, who later voted in favor of the bill, asking Ward why racing associations were getting money.

           Ward appeased Morris by showing what a low number 1% is. Ward responded with a hypothetical situation of the state collecting $5 million in one year and giving the commission $500,000, which satisfied Morris.

           The money taken in by the commission will be used to supplement the cash prizes for horse racing in the state. The 1% is divided into thirds, with 2/3 going to Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the remainder going to the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeder Association.

68% GENERAL FUND

           The remaining funds will be entered into the general fund for the state’s use.

           The Senators who opposed the bill are Mike Fesi, R-Houma; Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans; and Glen Womack, R-Baton Rouge.