As they head into the final few days of the 2023 legislative session, Louisiana lawmakers are closing in on approving bills to require casinos to provide training programs to address human trafficking and allow for fixed-odds wagering on horse races via sportsbook platforms.
The Louisiana House voted unanimously on Monday (June 5) to approve Senate Bill 192, one of several gaming-related bills moving through the state legislature in Baton Rouge.
As passed by the Senate and House, SB 192 will require the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) to develop minimum standards and regulations to establish a comprehensive human trafficking awareness and prevention training program for the state’s gaming industry.
The brainchild of former state senator and current LGCB chair Ronnie Johns, the bill will effectively elevate training requirements on human trafficking to a similar level as responsible gaming and anti-money laundering by making annual training on trafficking awareness and prevention a requirement to maintain a Louisiana gaming license.
Elsewhere, SB 192 will make several tweaks to Louisiana’s sports wagering legislation.
Under current law, any of the 20 sports-betting operator licenses that are not claimed by an incumbent casino or racino can be opened to applications from licensed video-poker establishments or off-track betting locations in Louisiana.
SB 192 will now make licensed fantasy sports operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, eligible to apply for their own sports wagering licenses as well, should any be available.
An amendment to the bill approved on the House floor on Monday is also set to amend Louisiana’s sports wagering law to allocate the greater of 3 percent or $500,000 in annual tax revenues from sports betting to a state fund on problem gambling.
“Sports wagering has actually exceeded all expectations in Louisiana, and in my opinion and in the Gaming Control Board’s opinion, we need to step up some of the money that is going to go to compulsive gaming,” said Republican state Representative John Stefanski, a co-sponsor of SB 192.
Another bill nearing final approval as lawmakers prepare to adjourn is House Bill 564 to enable Louisiana to join New Jersey and Colorado in formally authorizing fixed-odds betting on horse races.
After passing the House in April, HB 564 was approved by the Louisiana Senate on Monday by a vote of 36-2.
As with SB 192, House and Senate members still must come to agreement in relation to amendments that were made to the legislation after it cleared its chamber of origin.
Originally introduced by Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, HB 564 was amended in a Senate committee last week to enable fixed-odds wagering on horse races to be offered directly by sports-betting operators licensed by the LGCB.
Among other things, the amended bill would add horseracing to the definition of sporting events eligible for sports wagering under Louisiana law and allow for wagers on horse races, including as parlays with other sports, to be offered either in physical sportsbooks or via mobile platforms.
Sportsbook operators would be required to have an agreement with a Louisiana racing association, however, while an amendment approved on the Senate floor on Monday would also prohibit operators from offering fixed-odds wagers on out-of-state or international racing content.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Republican state Senator Mike Reese said HB 564 “provides the opportunity for … Louisiana to become the gold standard for this process of allowing horseracing in their sportsbooks.”
The bill is also supported by Louisiana’s racing industry, according to testimony provided last week to a Senate judiciary committee.
“This is not an expansion of gaming because you can bet on horseracing now, you can bet on sports [events] now,” said Ed Fenasci, executive director of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolence and Protection Association. “It just adds [horseracing] to the list of sports that they’re allowed to take sports wagers on.”
A further bill approved by the Louisiana Senate on Monday seeks to clarify a prohibition on electronic bingo machines at charitable gaming locations, while grandfathering any approvals that were granted prior to June 2022.
Meanwhile, two other gaming bills have already passed the Louisiana legislature and are on way to the desk of Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 160 would make technical changes to state laws related to horseracing, whereas Senate Bill 191 will prohibit any future marketing partnerships between licensed sports-betting operators and Louisiana colleges and universities.
SB 191’s author recently described the bill as more of a symbolic measure as its language replicates self-regulatory standards applied by the American Gaming Association, while Caesars has already ended a controversial partnership with Louisiana State University.
The Louisiana legislature is scheduled to adjourn its 2023 regular session no later than Thursday (June 8).