Louisiana was on the cusp of becoming arguably the most backward state in the nation when it comes to daily fantasy sports regulation, but last-minute changes to the bill avoided the mess.
Legislation on the table to flesh out voter-approved DFS had a provision that would have restricted play to brick-and-mortar facilities, and not over the internet in the 47 of 64 parishes that approved the games last fall. The bill became controversial in Louisiana thanks to the addition of that language.
On Tuesday, before House passage of the bill, the sponsor, Republican state Rep. Kirk Talbot, told his colleagues that the language was added to his legislation without his input.
New: DFS crisis averted in Louisiana. Sponsor asks colleagues to remove language that was added to his bill (effectively behind his back) that would have banned online/mobile DFS play. The amendment was adopted. pic.twitter.com/l7Q9ccifc6
— Brian (@brianpempus) May 21, 2019
According to the Advocate, the controversial amendment was added by Louisiana Video Gaming Association, which lobbies for facilities that are worried about the competition. Bars with video poker, as well as truck stops with video poker, would have been been beneficiaries under the bill.
Don’t let the money grab by video poker special interest groups determine where you play fantasy sports. Write your lawmaker TODAY and tell them you want to the freedom to play wherever you want. #lalege https://t.co/iJFXUMMqBP
— Fairness For Fantasy Sports Louisiana (@FairnessLa) May 21, 2019
Critics labeled it an attempt to subvert the will of the voters. The controversial language was backed by state Rep. Denise Marcelle, a Democrat from New Orleans, according to the Advocate.
DFS giant DraftKings, which also operates a traditional sportsbook in NJ, blasted the effort to restrict DFS to b&m facilities in a tweet earlier this month.
In November, Louisianans overwhelmingly voted to legalize daily fantasy sports. Now, some lawmakers want to reverse the results of the election and restrict fantasy sports to PHYSICAL LOCATIONS. Tell your lawmakers to respect the will of the voters!
— DraftKings (@DraftKings) May 11, 2019
Talbot’s HB459 was approved Tuesday and heads to a Senate committee for consideration. It should make its way through that chamber, as the state needs to establish rules and regulations for DFS play that was approved by voters in November. Talbot has another bill in the House (HB600) that would establish a 10% tax rate for DFS companies. That legislation must pass as well.
@JeanPaulCoussan, Did you know both parishes in your district supported permitting fantasy sports contests last November? Thank you for voting yes so far. Important to vote yes on HB 600 today to regulate and tax fantasy contests.
— Fairness For Fantasy Sports Louisiana (@FairnessLa) May 22, 2019
While the state crafts the framework for DFS regulation, lawmakers are also working on a sports wagering bill. That measure cleared a House committee on Tuesday.
The legislation to authorize traditional sports wagering would not allow statewide online/mobile play, a crucial component of a regulated sports betting industry. There would be 20 brick-and-mortar sports betting locations under the legislation from Sen. Danny Martiny, a Republican.
Louisiana would join about a dozen states with legalized sports betting if Martiny’s bill is approved this year. The state is one of more than 40 with DFS legalization.
Had the controversial amendment to Talbot’s DFS bill stayed in the proposal, Louisiana would have been the first state in the country with a requirement that DFS be played in b&m facilities.
While Tuesday was a victory for DFS players, the bumpy road for that bill is additional evidence that online/mobile sports betting in the state will be an uphill battle in future legislative sessions.