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Sports Betting, Fantasy Sports Bills Stall In 2019 Legislative Session

Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) presented his bill to legalize sports betting to the House Criminal Justice committee May 21, 2019.
Wallis Watkins
Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) presented his bill to legalize sports betting to the House Criminal Justice committee May 21, 2019.

Louisianians will not be playing daily fantasy sports or betting on games outright anytime soon, after the final chaotic minutes of the legislative session sank both efforts. 

Nearly 75 percent of Louisiana parishes approved daily fantasy sports on last year’s ballot. But in order to get fantasy sports up and running, lawmakers needed to pass regulations this session.

“The Legislature really just had a simple task, which was to pass the rules and taxes and uphold the will of the voters, and instead, [they] let politics and personal disputes get into the way,” said Ryan Berni, president of Fairness for Fantasy Sports.

Berni says a failed effort to legalize sports betting at the state’s casinos and racetracks took fantasy sports down with it.

Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie), who carried the sports betting legislation, said a house committee was unfairly blocking his bill. So in a last ditch effort, he attached it to fantasy sports legislation by Representative Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge).

Talbot supported sports betting, but not Martiny’s move, saying it put his bills in jeopardy.

“When you try to hijack a bill with 72 hours left in the session," explained Talbot, " people get nervous, they worry about the details, they want a nice, drawn-out discussion."

Talbot had the amendments stripped, clearing his bills for approval in the House. But in the Senate, a last-minute protest by Martiny prevented the final vote on a fantasy sports tax.

"I don't know that I have ever voted against a gaming bill and y'all have ribbed me for it for 25 years. I don't mind losing, but I like losing in a fair fight," Martiny told members of the Senate on the final day of session.

Without the tax in place, fantasy sports could be on hold until 2021, the next time lawmakers are allowed to consider tax measures.

Copyright 2019 WRKF

Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.
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