After years sitting on the sidelines, Louisiana will finally join the world of daily fantasy sports. Voters in 47 of the state’s 64 parishes voted in favor of legalizing fantasy sports in a referendum that accompanied Tuesday’s ballot.
Residents of parishes that approved the measure will be able to play daily fantasy sports as soon as the state figures out how to regulate the activity. Fantasy sports will remain prohibited in the parishes that opposed the measure.
Most of the state’s urban parishes approved the measure while most of those opposed to fantasy sports were located in rural areas in the northern part of the state. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and most of the state’s other population centers all voted to legalize fantasy sports.
The favorable vote comes on the back of a campaign mounted by FanDuel and DraftKings, who spent a combined $1 million backing the effort. The money was well-spent, as both sites will now be able to serve the vast majority of Louisiana’s population.
Ryan Berni, head of the committee that pushed the measure, said in a statement that the parishes that approved fantasy sports represent 92% of the state’s population.
“Last night’s resounding results are a major step forward for sports fans in Louisiana,” he said on Wednesday. “Parishes representing 92% of the state’s population said they want fantasy sports permitted, like in 41 other states.”
The campaign’s biggest opponents were the Louisiana Family Forum and the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Both opposed the measure on grounds of increased problem gambling concerns and the risk of children being exposed to new forms of gaming.
When will fantasy sports begin in Louisiana?
Sports fans in most parishes scored a big win on Tuesday, but it will still be a while before the first fantasy sites actually begin accepting players from Louisiana. First, the state must enact new legislation to oversee the industry and figure out how to collect tax revenue from the activity.
Louisiana’s next legislative session commences in April 2019, which puts the start of fantasy betting well into next year. Additionally, that legislation will likely direct the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to adopt regulations, which will take additional time.
According to the Edwardsville Intelligencer, the ballot’s main sponsor said he anticipates the first fantasy sites going live in Louisiana around Fall 2019.
Fantasy sites that choose to enter Louisiana will have to ensure their geolocation technology is up to snuff as well to ensure they accurately block access to state residents in the 17 parishes that voted no against legalization. Although geolocation technology has improved drastically in recent years, it has so far not been tested on such a specific level as it will be in Louisiana.
Does this increase the likelihood of sports betting in Louisiana?
The overwhelmingly favorable vote for daily fantasy may portend good things for Louisiana sports betting fans as well. Louisiana was one of just a few holdout states that refused to allow the major daily fantasy sites to enter the state with lawmakers following the lead of powerful gambling coalitions that oppose gaming expansion.
Tuesday’s vote, however, may change the landscape as it is clear now that the majority of Louisiana’s population is comfortable with sports-related gaming. Fantasy sports are a far cry from actual sports betting, but the vote does show Louisiana’s attitudes towards sports gaming are not as unfavorable as some might have thought.
State Senator Danny Martiny introduced a bill to legalize sports betting at Louisiana casinos earlier this year, but his bill died in committee before gaining any real traction. He has since said he plans to introduce the bill again in the next legislative session, this time with more momentum on his side after the successful bid to legalize fantasy sports.
Martini says his bill would make Louisiana competitive with neighboring Mississippi, which has already legalized sports betting. “We’re not competing,” he said in support of his bill back in August. “We’re losing money to our neighbor.”
Additionally, he says his bill would bring much-needed revenue to the state. Martiny said previously he isn’t optimistic his bill will gain traction in 2019, but more recently has said he is “encouraged” by Tuesday’s vote.
Sports bill still faces an uphill battle in Louisiana, but the expansion of fantasy sports does bode well over the longer term. If fantasy sports were able to finally crack the Louisiana market, actual sports betting no longer seems like such a distant possibility.