Sports betting on Nov. 3 ballot

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 7:00 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - On the Nov. 3 ballot is a parish-by-parish referendum whether to allow sports wagering. Local business leaders have endorsed it in Calcasieu Parish.

Though sports betting is illegal in Louisiana, the state has many other kinds of gaming including casinos: video poker, lotteries and more.

Gaming industry consultant Elizabeth McLaughlin says it’s needed to help with recovery.

“It’s a critical piece to the long-term recovery of the gaming, tourism and hospitality industry in Southwest Louisiana,” McLaughlin said. “And when I say the industries, I’m not just talking about the companies, I’m talking about the individuals that work in this industry, the families that their jobs support.”

Local business leaders who support it say sports betting is going to other states.

“People bet illegally online and they also are going to Mississippi and Arkansas to place sports bets where they do have legalized sports betting,” McLaughlin said. “And L.E.D. (Louisiana Economic Development Department) commissioned a study in 2019 that estimated we’re losing about $330 million in gaming revenue to Mississippi and Arkansas.”

Exactly how it would work is uncertain. Such wagering would stay illegal until state laws and regulations are adopted including taxation.

Winnings would still be subject to personal income tax, but state and local taxes and fees would likely result.

The Public Affairs Research Council says regulation would fall under the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, which already oversees video poker and casinos.

“The November 3 vote is really an opening of the door for sports wagering because the legislature still has to set a tax rate and set up the regulatory framework that will be overseeing and managed by the gaming control board,” McLaughlin said.

President and CEO George Swift says the Chamber Southwest supports the initiative.

“We are a strong gaming market,” Swift said. “We want it to come back and and this is a way that we can become competitive with other states, especially the Mississippi market, so we urge a vote yes."

Still, opponents say it would expand all the ills of gaming including financial problems and addiction.

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