Wagering wins: Most Louisiana parishes back sports betting

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Sports betting won with voters in most of Louisiana’s parishes on Election Day.

Voters in at least 52 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes agreed in Tuesday’s election to legalize sports wagering in their parishes, while voters in at least five other parishes refused to allow the gambling within their legal limits. The Associated Press deemed another seven parishes too close to immediately call.

The parishes that approved represent most of Louisiana’s population, including all of the major metro areas, in a state that already has a lottery, casinos, video poker and slot machines at racetracks.

But sports betting on live-action games is likely at least a year away because lawmakers still have to set the tax rates and regulations.

Sports betting opponents, such as pastors and the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, had a difficult time fighting the organized pro-wagering message of gambling companies that poured more than $2 million into a political action committee called Louisiana Wins.

The PAC pushed passage of the sports betting proposition through TV and digital ads and campaign mailers that said Louisiana could bring in millions of dollars from the wagering activity. The group noted Louisiana’s neighboring states of Arkansas and Mississippi allow some form of sports betting.

“The people of Louisiana have spoken. Louisiana was missing out on tax revenue from not having legal sports wagering, and now we will be able to raise revenue to support our state’s many needs,” Ryan Berni with Louisiana Wins said in a statement.

However, estimates of the taxes Louisiana could bring in from sports betting vary widely — and depend on how expansive lawmakers allow the wagering to be.

Parishes where voters refused to legalize sports betting include rural Catahoula, Franklin, LaSalle, West Carroll and Winn. In seven parishes, the decision remained unclear: Beauregard, Caldwell, Grant, Jackson, Richland, Sabine and Union.

Tuesday’s sport betting victory was even larger than a similar win two years ago, when residents of 47 parishes agreed to legalize fantasy sports competitions for online cash prizes.

Voter legalization in a parish is only the first step of a multistep process, however.

Determining which live action sports games will be allowed in the gambling, where the wagers can happen and how the activity will be taxed must be settled in a future legislative session. Lawmakers — who agreed in a two-thirds vote to let parishes decide whether to legalize sports betting — must create the licensing, regulation and tax framework before wagering begins.

In other statewide propositions beyond sports betting, voters backed five of the seven constitutional changes proposed, while overwhelmingly rejecting two amendments recommended by lawmakers.

Notably, more than 62% of voters agreed to rewrite the Louisiana Constitution to ensure it does not offer protections for abortion rights, a provision that would become relevant if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide is overturned.

On the other amendments, voters:

—Approved Amendment 2 to change the way oil and gas wells are assessed for property taxes, allowing a well’s production to be included in determining the fair market value.

—Agreed to Amendment 3 to let lawmakers use the state’s “rainy day” fund to offset costs tied to federally declared disasters, like a hurricane.

—Rejected Amendment 4, a proposal pushed by conservative lawmakers that would have recalculated Louisiana’s cap on annual growth in government to make it harder for lawmakers to increase spending beyond certain limits.

—Refused Amendment 5, which would have let manufacturers and local government agencies negotiate financial deals to replace the property taxes these companies could owe for industrial expansion.

—Approved Amendment 6 to allow higher-income homeowners to qualify for a special freeze in their property tax assessments.

—Backed Amendment 7 to lock up Louisiana’s unclaimed property dollars in a trust fund that cannot be used to pay for state operating expenses.


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte. Find AP’s full election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2020.