Sports Betting Language Could Kill Louisiana Fantasy Bill

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Associated Press
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana voters agreed in November to legalize online fantasy sports contests for cash prizes in 47 parishes. But it's unclear if lawmakers will approve the tax and regulatory provisions required to start the betting, before the legislative session ends Thursday.

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Measures to outline the required rules and tax rates for online fantasy sports betting have gotten tied up in a separate House and Senate feud over whether to legalize wagering on live action sports events.

In fantasy sports, people create imaginary teams of real-life sports players and score points based on how those players perform in actual games. Websites such as DraftKings and FanDuel charge an entry fee and offer payouts to winners.

More than 40 states allow online fantasy sports betting.

Two bills by Republican Rep. Kirk Talbot, of River Ridge, would enact the rules and taxing plans that are required for the companies to operate in the state.

Both proposals won House passage, but senators sent the tax measure and the regulatory measure back with language sought by Sen. Danny Martiny to legalize wagering on college, professional and other live action sports events. House lawmakers have rejected that idea in previous votes.

Fantasy sports companies — and their supporters — say they shouldn't be dragged into a separate gambling fight, since voters have authorized betting on online fantasy sports, but haven't yet weighed in on legalizing sports betting on college and professional games.

"We voted. It's time to uphold the will of the voters and advance fantasy sports contests once and for all," Ryan Berni, spokesman for Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana, a PAC financed by DraftKings and FanDuel, said in a statement.

The organization is urging fantasy sports enthusiasts to call their lawmakers and get the other live action sports betting language removed — and on Tuesday announced it was running radio and digital ads trying to pressure lawmakers to pass the regulatory and tax bills.

Talbot said he won't accept the live action betting provision on his fantasy sports bills and will try to win support for stripping the language.

Martiny, a Kenner Republican, won Senate support this session for his separate effort to legalize sports betting on live action events, and he saw one House committee back the measure. But the House Appropriations Committee loaded the legislation up with unpopular amendments and then killed it.

An effort to yank the bill from the Appropriations Committee fell short of the votes needed Tuesday.

If the two sides can't broker a deal, Louisiana residents won't be able to bet legally on any type of sports after this session, fantasy or otherwise.

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