MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) — Legalized sports betting has started in Louisiana with the first wagering parlor opened at a tribal casino, as the state readies for its largest gambling expansion in decades.
The Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville partnered with Betfred Sports to open The Draft Room, a sports book featuring theater seating, a custom video wall, betting counters and kiosks, the News-Star reported.
“Our sports bar that connects with The Draft Room has been open since April, and our guests have been calling every day to ask when the sports book is opening,” Paragon Casino General Manager Marshall Sampson Sr. told the newspaper.
Retired New Orleans Saints fan favorite Joe Horn made the first official bet Wednesday — a long-odds seven-team parlay in which he has to pick all seven winners to cash in.
“I bet a little money to win a lot,” Horn said.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana lawmakers agreed to legalize sports betting last year in parishes where voters authorized it. Lawmakers wrote the regulations and taxing rules earlier this year. Voters in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes agreed to allow the wagering in their communities.
Paragon is operated by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and not regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. But the News-Star reports that Paragon needed legalization of sports betting before it could open its sports book.
Gamblers will be able to place sports wagers in-person only for now, but Paragon officials said mobile applications will follow.
State-licensed casino betting parlors are expected to follow Paragon’s lead within a few weeks, said Ronnie Johns, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
“I’ve never seen such interest in something than I’ve seen in sports betting," Johns said.
Like Paragon, all of the first sports betting options at Louisiana-licensed casinos and racetracks will be at on-site sports books for in-person wagering. Johns said it will be months before mobile sports gaming applications come online.
“Mobile takes longer because the casinos use outside vendors to do that work, and those vendors haven’t been licensed yet, so they have to go through the suitability process and background checks with the State Police,” Johns said.
The Louisiana Lottery, which will regulate the sports betting kiosks planned for bars and restaurants, said it could be January before that retail segment comes online.