Louisiana Set to Experience Massive Gambling Changes

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Louisiana, where the Mississippi river finally meets the ocean all the way from Missouri. Apart from traversing cities, providing sustenance to countless forms of vegetation and being one of the States’ most famous landmarks, the Mississippi is also home to a different kind of entertainment.


In Louisiana, this mighty river entertains what are known as casino boats or floating casinos, legalised in 1991 to offer an attraction of sorts that would lure in tourists. Indeed, these paddle-wheelers, reminiscent of a Mark Twain novel are quite something. The only clinch – business dropped as soon as these casinos left the dock. Naturally, this created something of a problem to the owners who were inclined to stay docked most of the time. Since only a floating casino has been legalized, these riverboats cannot move inland without the right authority to do so. Enter the new legislation, kicked off the week starting 12th of March.


A Wave of Bills


These dockside casino’s proposal is only one of many being proposed at a new legislation session in Louisiana. In a bid to bring this state at par with a number of other states in the US, the legislators are proposing a number of bills to legalise the following:  sports betting, online gambling, and daily fantasy sports. The reasons for this are multiple but perhaps none more prominent than the revenue in tax dollars that gambling generates. Both Republicans and Democrats are pushing for this legislation, a solution which would see revenue increase, without the need for an increase in taxes. But let us take a look at what the bills propose.


Bill S-322: Legalizing online gambling


At the moment, online gambling in Louisiana is illegal. This is done however to discourage unlicensed operators to accept bets from Louisiana residents. It would be wrong to assume that the law could stop Louisiana residents from accessing perfectly legal offshore casinos to play or bet on. Bill S-322 seeks to legalize online gambling, presumably to be able to cash in on the tax dollars it is currently losing out on. Senator Daniel Martiny filed this bill, to be made legal for over 21 year olds.


Bill H-245: Expansion of gaming activities at the states’ racing facilities


Filed by Democratic Rep. Major Thibaut, this bill seeks to offer bettors the possibility to bet on any sporting event, be it football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, boxing, etc, etc. Regulation for sports betting would be handled by the LGCB – the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. This would be available at the states’ four racing tracks: Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs, Fair Grounds, and Louisiana Downs.


Bill H-484: Legalising Daily Fantasy Sports


The bill was filed by House Rep. Kirk Talbot, in a bid to legalise Daily Fantasy Sports, a gambling activity on the rise and extremely popular in the US. This would be regulated by the LGCB, who would draw and implement rules for DFS operators.


A Referendum to Seal the Deal


A referendum would still be held after the legislation has passed, to allow the gambling to take place in any state county. Each and every parish will be invited to cast its vote for gambling to be allowed, or otherwise, within their parish. The total from the qualified elector’s votes would determine the entry or prohibition of any of the bills proposed. This is perhaps the reason why there is at the moment heavy lobbying taking place from all those in favour of the bill to pass. This would mean more jobs, they claim, as well as more money to be spent on health, education and infrastructure. However, not everyone is of the same opinion.


A Gambling Problem


Anti-gambling lobbyists claim that any money spent on gambling and casinos is inevitably taken away from money that could have been spent elsewhere; restaurants, grocery shopping, and in some extreme cases - medicine. Recent reports show that there are as many as 275,000 problem gamblers in Louisiana, with not enough done to support or rehabilitate them. The percentage of Louisiana gamblers is higher than the national average of 2%, a figure which stands at 2.9%, each costing around $,1200 a year.


New Orleans Casino Expansion


Harrah’s casino in New Orleans is seeking permission to build another hotel on the casino site, with an added food court. When it was first built in 1992, the casino was meant to be a stand-alone, to aid other restaurants and hotels benefit from its proximity. However, after it went bankrupt in 1995, it was given permission to build a hotel and restaurant on the site. Today, Harrah’s is asking for a 36 year contract to operate the only land-based casino in New Orleans and everything is pointing to them being successful in their endeavor.

 Image result for harrah's new orleans casino

Source: Nola.com


While Mark Twain might be disappointed with the general decline in interest in paddle-wheelers turned casinos, slowly chugging through the calm river, it is undoubtedly a sign of the changing times. Louisiana is poised on the brink of change, and while not everyone is happy with the cutting down of trees to make way for grander casinos, this state is set to become the next large gambling state.

Showboat image: Source: Walpole Village School

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