An effort to legalize sports betting in Louisiana came to an end in the Legislature Tuesday, after the bill was heavily amended and ultimately defeated in a House committee.
“I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed,” said Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie), the bill's author.
Senator Martiny has been pushing for the legalization of sports betting in Louisiana ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law in 2018 that barred most states from allowing wagers on sports. Since then, states across the country, including Mississippi, have been expanding their gaming rules to include sports betting.
“I’m just trying to allow our casinos to compete on an even playing field with Mississippi,” Martiny reiterated to members of the House Appropriations committee Tuesday.
Originally, Martiny’s bill would have limited sports betting to the state’s casinos and racetracks, in order to appease opponents who saw the bill as an expansion of gambling.
While the bill won the approval of the Senate, it faced challenges in House committees.
Despite Martiny’s objection, two committees tried amending the bill to allow sports betting in more than 2,500 video poker locations across the state, places like sports bars and truck stops. The House Criminal Justice committee eventually withdrew that amendment before passing the bill last week, but in Tuesday’s House Appropriations committee, the amendment was passed and stayed on.
Critics backed the amendment, seeing it as a way to galvanize opposition to the bill.
“If you want to kill a gaming regulation in this building, at least in my experience," said Martiny, "you call it an expansion of gaming.”
Martiny contends sports betting is already operating underground in Louisiana without generating revenue for the state to help provide services for problem gamblers.
The amendment led the Louisiana Casino Association to withdraw their support for the bill. Executive Director Wayne Duty said the changes made the bill untenable.
“You have now put enough baggage on the plane, it will not get airborne,” he said.