FILE - Louisiana State Capitol

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Louisiana Senate lawmakers who support legalizing sports betting haven’t yet given up in the face of persistent House opposition, while already-legal fantasy sports games are getting caught in the crossfire.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday snuffed out one effort to revitalize sports betting. Rep. Joe Marino attempted to get Senate Bill 153 discharged from the House Appropriations Committee, which heavily amended the bill earlier this session before voting it down.

Marino argued it was only in Appropriations to address its fiscal note, not to be loaded down with unfriendly amendments. He asked the House to strip down the bill until it was only a public referendum on the concept.

Assuming at least some parishes approved, lawmakers could hammer out the details next year. Legislators had a similar plan for fantasy sports last year: let the people vote, then come back and establish the tax and regulation framework.

Marino’s attempt failed by a 41-48 vote.

“It’s a process,” said Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, who has been accused by SB 153 sponsor Sen. Danny Martiny of treating the bill unfairly. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

But in the Senate, where SB 153 passed earlier in the session, sports-betting supporters have added language to legalize and tax it onto other measures meant to impose taxes and regulations on the online fantasy sports contests that most parishes legalized last year.

Rep. Kirk Talbot, who carried the fantasy sports legislation this session, already has stated his opposition to sports betting hitchhikers. The bills will be discussed in conference between members of the House and Senate.

Meanwhile, fantasy sports advocates are worried the last-minute legislative gambits will derail efforts to set up the fantasy gaming regulatory framework and keep people from playing in the parishes where it is now legal.

“Nearly 850,000 residents voted in favor of the November 2018 referendum to allow for fantasy sports, which won in 47 parishes and garnered 60 percent of the vote statewide,” said industry-funded Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, key bills were hijacked and heavily amended, which now threatens to derail the necessary rule and regulation process to make fantasy sports contests a reality.”

The organization announced Tuesday that it will buy radio and digital ads to urge the legislature to “uphold the will of the voters.”

The session must end by 6 p.m. Thursday.


David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.