BATON ROUGE (USA Today)— Mississippi casinos in Biloxi and Tunica welcomed sports betting with great fanfare last week.
“For the Southeast region, we’re it,” Mississippi Gaming Commissioner Jerry Griffith told the Biloxi Sun-Herald. “It’s new. It’s exciting. It’s energizing. This is big time right here.”
So will Louisiana eventually break Mississippi’s monopoly in the southeastern U.S. by adding sports betting to its gaming industry inventory?
Lawmakers here rejected a bill during this year’s Regular Session that would have allowed sports betting in Louisiana contingent on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a law that had previously banned it, which the court did in May.
“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the 6-3 majority. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.”
Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, who implored his colleagues to pass his bill to allow sports wagering, said Louisiana has fallen farther behind Mississippi.
“We’re not competing,” he said. “We’re losing money to our neighbor.”
He also predicts Arkansas will ultimately legalize sports betting for its Oaklawn Park horse racetrack and Southland Park dog racetrack and that Oklahoma’s Indian tribe casinos will follow suit.
“The New Orleans market is going to be severely impacted by Mississippi and the Shreveport market is gong to be severely impacted by the Arkansas racetracks and Oklahoma Indian casinos,” Martiny said.
Martiny had hoped to try again during the third Special Session of the year in June but Gov. John Bel Edwards didn’t include it as an option.
Edwards has said he will consider supporting legalized sports wagering. “Certainly we should look at it,” the governor said during his monthly radio show after the Supreme Court ruling.
But Edwards said he didn’t want to include it in the June Special Session because he didn’t want to distract lawmakers from passing new taxes to address the state’s budget crisis, which they did with a 0.45-cent sales tax.
Martiny said he’ll try again next spring, but he isn’t optimistic.
“I think at the very earliest it will be two-and-a-half to three years before we could get it up and running,” Martiny said. “And even if we do it’s restricted by a limitation of (space) within the casinos.”
The Legislature did approve a bill, which Edwards signed into law, that will allow Louisiana’s riverboat casinos to come ashore and expanded the amount of gambling space.
But Martiny said that isn’t likely enough to accommodate large, lavish sports betting areas within the existing allowable space.
“It’s not so much how much money the industry and state would gain (through additional taxes), but how much we’re going to lose,” Martiny said.