Louisiana fantasy sports betting rules fail to win passage

Politics
Louisiana Session Ends_1559930960010

Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, right, looks at a phone with Reps. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, center, and Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, on the final day of the legislative session on Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana voters agreed to legalize fantasy sports betting in three-quarters of the state’s parishes months ago, but they won’t actually get to compete for online cash prizes anytime soon.

Lawmakers didn’t set the required rules and tax rates for the betting before the clock ran out Thursday on the legislative session, bogged down in a separate feud over whether to legalize live action sports betting.

Now, it could be two years or more before fantasy sports betting can start in the 47 parishes where voters sought to have it.

In fantasy sports, people create imaginary teams of real-life sports players and score points based on how those players perform in actual games. Websites such as DraftKings and FanDuel charge an entry fee and offer payouts to winners.

More than 40 states allow online fantasy sports betting, and the November election settled that Louisiana would join them, at least in the parishes that agreed to legalize the activity.

“The question we now have to ask ourselves is, what is the point of having an election on issues if the legislators we send to Baton Rouge to create the appropriate regulatory framework and tax structure refuse to do so?” Ryan Berni, spokesman for Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana, a PAC financed by DraftKings and FanDuel, said in a statement.

Two bills by Republican Rep. Kirk Talbot, of River Ridge, would have enacted the rules and taxing plans that are required for the companies to operate in the state.

Both proposals won House passage, but senators sent the measures back with language sought by Sen. Danny Martiny to legalize wagering on college, professional and other live action sports events.

Talbot didn’t accept the live action betting provision on his fantasy sports bills because he didn’t think that language could win the House support needed for passage. House lawmakers had rejected live action sports betting in previous votes.

In the final day of the legislative session, Talbot sought to win support for stripping the language. But Martiny, angered by how he was treated by House lawmakers, helped sink the fantasy sports measure.

Talbot’s House floor seatmate and friend, House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, had helped sideline Martiny’s live action sports betting legislation through procedural maneuvers.

“I don’t think this is the way you do business,” Martiny fumed on the Senate floor.

The House voted 70-24 and 73-20 in the waning minutes of the session for the fantasy sports regulatory and tax bills. But the regulation proposal fell one vote short of the needed two-thirds vote in the Senate, and senators never voted on the tax measure, running out of time.

“Senators allowed personal politics to prevail, rather than the desires of the people they claim to represent,” Berni said.

Talbot blamed Martiny, his fellow Jefferson Parish lawmaker. With the Legislature unable to debate taxes in next year’s regular session, Talbot said, “we will not have fantasy sports for two years.”

“We have nothing,” Talbot said as minutes ticked away to adjournment.

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