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.
Until recently, Louisiana was a member of the short list of states that prohibit fantasy sports betting. That changed in 2018 when voters in 47 of 64 parishes voted to legalize fantasy sports. Once the proper regulations are put into place, most Louisianans will be able to play at the major fantasy sports sites.
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.
The outlook for online gambling and sports betting in Louisiana looks positive in the wake of the legalization of fantasy sports and continued efforts by some lawmakers to introduce sports betting legislation. Bills seeking to legalize sports betting and online gambling show at least some lawmakers are interested in expanding residents’ gaming options.
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
The latest push to legalize Louisiana sports betting came about in early 2019 with the introduction of SB 153. That bill aims to start the process of legalization by initiating a vote in every parish hosting a casino or racetrack and asking residents if they would like to approve sports betting.
If SB 153 becomes law and voters in a parish approve the measure, casinos and racetracks located in that parish will be authorized to apply for sports betting licenses. Once approved, those venues would be allowed to accept wagers in-person through retail sportsbooks on a range of professional and collegiate events.
SB 153 is fairly restrictive as it does not authorize mobile sports betting, but it’s a big step in the right direction for a state that has proven quite resistant to questions of gambling expansion. However, it is important to reiterate that the passage of SB 153 would not automatically approve sports betting in Louisiana. Voters in each parish would still need to voice their approval.
Past Efforts to Legalize LA Sports Betting
Louisiana entered the sports betting fray in March of 2018 with the introduction of a bill introduced by Representative Major Thibaut. HB 245 proposed legalizing sports betting at four live horse racing facilities: the Fair Grounds, Louisiana Downs, Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs.
Thibaut’s bill also called 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 did 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.
The November 2018 vote to legalize daily fantasy sports in most Louisiana parishes has also given the effort some much-needed momentum heading into future legislative sessions. After the majority of parishes easily passed the measure to make daily fantasy legal, it is clear attitudes in the state are softening when it comes to any activity that mixes sports with gaming.
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 was more of a placeholder than anything at this point in time as it was quite short on details. Besides calling for parish-by-parish referendums, the bill called 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. SB 322 was eventually shelved by lawmakers before progressing very far.
Fantasy Sports Sites
Louisiana voters legalized fantasy sports in 47 of 64 parishes with a referendum measure that appeared on the November 2018 ballot. All the state’s major population centers approved the measure to make daily fantasy sports legal for more than 90% of Louisiana residents.
Nothing changed on the ground for sports fans immediately because lawmakers must now introduce legislation to regulate and tax fantasy sports operators. Then, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board will have to draw up those regulations before DFS sites can begin accepting customers from legal parishes. Current projections put the actual launch of daily fantasy in Louisiana sometime around Fall 2019.
FanDuel (read more) and DraftKings (read more) will almost certainly be the first fantasy sites to enter the Louisiana market once all regulations are in place. Both sites contributed to the campaign that sought to convince residents to approve the measure and both have the technology in place to ensure they block residents from the 17 parishes that voted no.
Which Louisiana Parishes Allow Fantasy Sports?
Most of Louisiana’s populous parishes opted to legalize daily fantasy sports. According to some reports, 92% of Louisianans live in parishes that opted in. In other words, the odds are pretty good that you live in a parish where DFS is legal.
Parishes where fantasy sports are legal:
|Claiborne||Concordia||De Soto||East Baton Rouge|
|East Carroll||East Feliciana||Evangeline||Iberia|
|Rapides||Red River||St. Bernard||St. Charles|
|St. Helena||St. James||St. John the Baptist||St. Landry|
|St. Martin||St. Mary||St. Tammany||Tangipahoa|
|Webster||West Baton Rouge||West Feliciana|
Parishes where fantasy sports are not legal: