Ronnie S. Johns shies away from putting a date on when commercial sports betting will launch in Louisiana. But the Louisiana Gaming Control Board’s new chairperson says he expects it will happen “in the coming weeks.”
“We’re going to have some sports betting during football season. I’m fairly certain of that,” Johns told Gaming Today last Friday.
Louisiana Sports Betting Licenses And Procedures
The Pelican State’s top gaming regulator said Louisiana sportsbooks will initially be certified — not licensed — to operate inside temporary sports betting areas belonging to what Johns refers to as the “Big 20.” Those are the 15 riverboat casinos, Harrah’s New Orleans land-based casino, and four racinos eligible to operate sports betting under a 2021 state law.
Licenses, he said, will likely be issued in early 2022 after permanent sports betting areas now under construction are vetted by the state. A sports wagering license carries a fee of $500,000 and is effective for five years. Thirteen of the 20 had applied for sports betting licenses as of last week.
“Once those build-outs are finished, then they’ll get their permanent license,” said Johns. “So, we’re looking for probably after the first of the year for some of those to come into play.”
Because Louisiana’s commercial casinos and racinos must apply for a sports wagering license and pay all required licensing fees before a temporary certificate can be issued, Johns told Gaming Today that licensing of the casinos will be little more than a formality.
“The transition from a temporary (approval) to a permanent license is going to be very, very smooth and very easy,” he added.
Sports betting has already launched in Louisiana on tribal land. The Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe opened its Betfred sportsbook at the Paragon Indian Casino near Marksville on Oct. 6. It is one of four tribal-owned casinos in Louisiana.
Louisiana Online Sports Betting: What To Expect
Louisiana sports betting was legalized in 55 parishes through legislation passed this year after a referendum vote on sports betting in Nov. 2020. The new market is expected to meet or exceed $300 million in annual revenue, with at least half of that expected to come from online sports betting.
Online and mobile sports betting in Louisiana will hopefully launch by “the first of the year” in 2022, said Johns. Mobile sports wagering platforms and vendors must be vetted by state regulators first. That process is not yet complete, he said.
A total of 41 mobile sportsbooks are possible when online sports betting launches, including one lottery-run sportsbook regulated by the Louisiana Lottery Corporation and up to 40 mobile skins — or two per casino or track –regulated by the LGCB.
“Whether they use FanDuel or DraftKings or Caesars Sportsbook, those are just some examples, those vendors are going to have to go through a licensing process as well,” he said of the LGCB-regulated process. Johns wouldn’t speculate on which sportsbooks those are likely to be.
Brief History Of Louisiana Gaming Chief Ronnie Johns
Three casinos expected to enter the Louisiana sports betting market are located in the Lake Charles area inside Calcasieu Parish, one of 55 parishes that voted for legalization in Nov. 2020. One of the three is L’Auberge, which is partnered with Penn National. Another is Golden Nugget Lake Charles. The third is the Caesars-affiliated Isle of Capri, now being rebuilt as a land-based casino named Hollywood.
Altogether the three casinos employ around 8,000 people in western Louisiana by pulling in bettors from Louisiana and east Texas, Johns said.
And he should know. Johns served the parish for 22 years in the Louisiana State Legislature, first in the House and then the Senate, before being appointed as chair of the LGCB by Gov. John Bel Edwards in July 2021. It was Johns’ bill in 2018 that allowed riverboat casinos like Isle of Capri to move onshore.
Johns is also a former chief of the Louisiana Lottery Corporation. That gives him a historical perspective of gambling regulation in a state that he says derives about 10 percent of its state budget from gaming, including the state lottery.
“It’s about a billion (dollars) a year. So, it’s a huge part of our state budget,” he said.
Once live, Johns said he expects commercial sports betting to well-exceed some early estimates of $30 million in state revenue annually.
“We’re gonna tax on-property revenue at 10 percent but we’re going to tax online at 15 percent. So, we’ve got a higher tax rate on the online. Once that’s up and running, I think it’s going to be significant,” he added.