The gambling laws of Louisiana permit a few specific forms of gambling online and in the real world. Casinos on tribal land, riverboat casinos and racinos (horse tracks with slot machines) are all legal and regulated. Online betting is restricted to parimutuel wagering on horse and greyhound events. Online poker and casino games are not legal at this time.
Louisiana is one of a short list of states that prohibit fantasy sports betting. State laws consider anything that involves even a small amount of chance to be “gambling.” This includes fantasy sports, online poker and even online skill games such as Scrabble. If there is any element of chance whatsoever, it isn’t legal online.
Betting Site that are Legal in Louisiana:
In fact, Louisiana even has a 1997 law that makes “gambling by computer” a crime. The law is so broadly written that it makes no distinction between traditional gambling or any other form of gaming that involves money. The text of the law reads as follows:
“Gambling by computer is the intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting as a business of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit when accessing the Internet, World Wide Web, or any part thereof by way of any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or any server.”
The punishment for committing the crime of “gambling by computer” is a fine of up to $500 and up to six months imprisonment. Nobody has to date been charged with this crime so it’s mostly viewed as a non-issue. Plenty of people play at offshore gaming sites in Louisiana without any trouble whatsoever.
Surprisingly, the outlook for online gaming in Louisiana is actually quite positive. No fantasy sports and a fine for gambling by computer make it sound like a dire situation in Louisiana, but the truth is Louisiana is fairly comfortable with gambling and could actually expand into additional forms of gambling in the not-too-distant future. Multiple bills seeking to legalize sports betting, online gambling and fantasy sports have all been introduced just over the last year alone.
Horse Racing Betting Sites
The Louisiana Racing Commission oversees four racetracks and a number of off-track betting facilities in addition to a few racing betting sites. The following sites are all headquartered in the United States and are 100% legal under state and federal law.
Other than the obvious advantage of convenience, online horse betting provides the advantage of track selection. Each of these sites covers hundreds of racetracks around the world. You can bet on quarter horses, thoroughbreds, harness races and even greyhounds in the case of BetAmerica. You get paid full track odds and can take comfort from the fact that you’re doing business with companies located on US soil.
Sports Betting in Louisiana
Louisiana entered the sports betting fray in March of 2018 with the introduction of a bill introduced by Representative Major Thibaut. HB 245 proposes legalizing sports betting at four live horse racing facilities: the Fair Grounds, Louisiana Downs, Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs.
Thibaut’s bill also calls for a referendum in each of the parishes in which sports betting would take place, as required by the Louisiana Constitution for any expansion of gambling. If the voters of each parish approve, race courses in all four parishes would be free to begin taking wagers on all manner of sports.
Interestingly, the bill’s text does not mention the federal sports betting prohibition. Similar bills that were introduced in other states around the same time in early 2018 prefaced all proposals with a bit of text to the effect of “this bill only takes effect if the state determines sports betting is no longer prohibited at the federal level.”
There’s a fair chance Louisiana does indeed legalize sports betting at some point. This is already a fairly gambling-friendly state with a population that is already accustomed to gambling being a widely available thing. Louisiana also made Eilers & Krejcik’s list of the 32 states most likely to legalize sports betting within five years of the federal sports wagering ban being removed.
Online Casinos and Poker
Online poker is currently outlawed in Louisiana but there are several small indications that this may not be the case forever. It’s always hard to make political predictions that far in advance, but what I will say is the state’s overall attitude is conducive to getting something done.
First of all, the state embraces land-based gambling. This is evidenced by the existence of numerous horse racing tracks with slots, tribal casinos and riverboat casinos. Additionally, a representative of the Louisiana Gaming Control board recently said the board has no opinion either way on online gambling. This is far from a glowing endorsement of online gaming, but it is very helpful whenever a state’s gaming control board takes no position.
In 2013, State Representative Mike Huval filed HCR3 to request the state study the potential impact of legalizing and regulating gaming. In the bill, Huval acknowledge that citizens are already placing bets online with offshore providers. With people playing without safeguards and the state missing out on potential tax revenue, he wanted to see if licensing online casinos and poker sites could make it safer for the players while simultaneously raising revenue for the state.
The bill sought to obtain input from the governor, gaming control board and state police gaming division. State police and the gaming commission responded saying that regulation presented a number of challenges and issues worth considering. They also concluded that if the state did pursue regulation, it would need to figure a way to detect violations of gaming law, set up a system to ensure regulatory compliance and implement safeguards for gaming addicts and underage gamblers (presentation here).
A new effort to legalize online gambling materialized in 2018 with a bill called SB 322 seeking to legalize online gambling at the parish level by calling for every parish in Louisiana to hold a public referendum asking voters whether or not they approve of online gambling.
SB 322 seems to be more of a placeholder than anything at this point in time as it is quite short on details. Besides calling for parish-by-parish referendums, the bill calls for a minimum age of 21 to play, licenses to be issued to existing casinos and for the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to oversee the industry.
This bill seems quite unlikely to pass in its current form. Holding individual referendums for every parish in the state is already a major undertaking and would lead to a fractured system in the state. On top of that, it would be completely impractical for casino operators to block customers from some parish but allows others from different parishes. Geolocation technology just isn’t there yet.
Fantasy Sports Sites
All major fantasy sports sites avoid Louisiana due to the wide scope of the state’s anti-gambling laws. In other states that have not yet legalized fantasy sports, existing law provides enough wiggle room that the major DFS operators are comfortable staying in business. That is not the case in Louisiana. Legislation needs to be passed here before we see a return of online fantasy sports.
One attempt to legalize fantasy sports in Louisiana came via HB 475 proposed by state representative Joe Lopinto in 2015. His bill was a simple one that provided a definition of fantasy sports contests and then exclude those games from existing criminal statutes. He pulled the bill later that year after seeing strong opposition to the bill.
March of 2018 saw a renewed effort to legalize daily fantasy sports in Louisiana with the introduction of HB484 by Representative Kirk Talbot. That bill proposes exempting DFS from the state’s anti-gambling laws and allow the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to regulate, license and monitor the industry.
The catch with HB 4848 is that it calls for a public referendum, which would give the public a chance to vote for or against legalizing daily fantasy sports. That referendum would need to pass before lawmakers could proceed to actually make DFS legal.