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Betting Business: Sports betting bill clears Louisiana Senate panel

Louisianans may be able to bet on Super Bowl LIV in their home state casinos and racetracks if the Legislature approves a bill that cleared its first hurdle Tuesday.

BATON ROUGE — Louisianans may be able to bet on Super Bowl LIV in their home state casinos and racetracks if the Legislature approves a bill that cleared its first hurdle here Tuesday.

Senate Bill 153 by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, would legalize betting on college and professional sports at Louisiana’s 15 riverboat casinos, the land-based casino in New Orleans and four racetracks. It was approved with a 3-1 vote.

Martiny said Louisiana’s casinos and racetracks have been put in a competitive disadvantage after Mississippi and Arkansas legalized some form of sports betting.

“We’re trying to figure out how to crawl and these people are sprinting,” Martiny said of Louisiana’s neighbors.

“I want to see it in Caddo Parish and Bossier Parish,” said Sen. Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport, who said casinos there were losing customer to Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Martiny said he believes tax revenue generated by sports betting should primarily go toward funding early childhood education with a smaller percentage possibly dedicated to combating compulsive gambling.

Martiny conceded he doesn’t know how much tax revenue sports betting would generate, guessing it could range between $40 million and $60 million annually.

“Sports betting is not the solution to all our fiscal problems, but I know if we don’t do it we will lose money,” he said. “If nothing else it stops some of the bleeding from people going to Mississippi and Arkansas.”

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who revealed a gambling addiction last month, said a portion of any new gambling revenue should go toward the state’s compulsive gambling fund.

“I hope people don’t have to go through the pain I have with this disease,” she said.

Peterson said she isn’t anti-gambling, but she voted against the bill.

Opponents echoed her concerns. Among them were the Family Forum and the Louisiana Baptists.

“(Compulsive gambling) is a huge problem in this state,” said Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptists, describing legalizing sports betting as a massive expansion of gambling.

The Rev. David Cranford of First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula said any expansion of gambling “will cost lives.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he will consider signing the a bill legalizing sports betting if it reaches his desk.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1    


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