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 positive. Things are bleak at the moment, yes, but changes are under way. Over the past couple years, there have been notable efforts to consider amending the state’s laws and regulate internet betting rather than prohibit it. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. Let’s being with a discussion of what is legal right now.
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.
Online Poker and Casinos in Louisiana
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).
No legislation is currently pending to change the situation, but the 2013 request for a study and its response are promising. Even some news publications have joined the call for legalizing and regulating online gaming. We still have some serious hurdles to clear before we get online poker or casinos in Louisiana, but the outlook is generally positive.
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.
The latest 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.
Change seems unlikely in Louisiana for the time being. The state’s existing casino interests and anti-gambling groups are both staunchly opposed to fantasy sports and both hold considerable sway among lawmakers.