Sports betting

This is where the sportsbook will be temporarily located in the L'Auberge Baton Rouge casino. After licensing delays caused by Hurricane Ida, legalized sports betting could start at some of Louisiana’s state regulated casinos as soon as Nov. 1. (Photo by Bill Feig, The Advocate)

BATON ROUGE, La. - Legalized sports betting could start at some of Louisiana’s state licensed casinos as soon as Nov. 1.

Ronnie Johns, head of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, said the first casinos are close to getting licenses for sports betting.

“I understand the public wants this very badly, and we’re working overtime,” he said. “But we’ve got to dot our I’s and cross our T’s.”

Thirteen of the 20 state licensed riverboats, racinos and Harrah’s land-based casino have applied for licenses to handle sports betting. Harrah’s has even turned the former Acme Oyster House restaurant, which didn’t reopen after COVID forced the casino to close, into a temporary sports book with seating for about 75 people. The remaining seven gambling properties are expected to apply for sports betting licenses before Jan. 1.

Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville has been taking sports bets since Oct. 6. The property is owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and is not regulated by the state. The compacts the tribes have with the federal government allow them to operate casino games that state voters have approved.

There had been talk gamblers would be allowed to place bets at some casinos by mid-September, after the Gaming Control Board approved emergency rules to jump-start the licensing process in August.

But Hurricane Ida caused a delay. All of the members of the Louisiana State Police’s Gaming Enforcement Division were deployed to help with storm rescue and recovery, so that stopped the review and approval process for two weeks.

Initially, sports betting will just be allowed in state-regulated casinos. Mobile betting on smartphones is still “a couple of months away” because of the extensive compliance process, Johns said. All of the state-licensed casinos have already been investigated by State Police, but the vendors for betting websites and apps need a full review.

State Police also need to make sure that geofencing works, so people who live in parishes that didn’t approve sports betting aren’t able to place bets on their smartphones or computers.

The good news is Johns said they’re ahead of the pace for getting mobile betting approved. “Our goal was to have it up and running by the first of the year,” he said. “We’re ahead in the ball game.”