Legislative Roundup: Sports wagering; family politics for civil servants

Photo by Robert Buckman

Cortez’s sports wagering bill passes Senate

Responding to the voters’ resounding affirmation in last November’s referendum, the Senate Wednesday afternoon overwhelmingly approved the bill legalizing sports wagering.

The bill, SB247 by Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, passed 31-6.

As Cortez presided, the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, told the Senate, “Our constituents passed this with 65% of the vote. All I’m doing here is honoring their wishes.”

Lafayette Parish’s other two senators, Republican Bob Hensgens and Democrat Gerald Boudreaux, also voted for it.

SB247 is a complex, 40-page measure that creates the Louisiana Sports Wagering Act as part of the 1950 law that created the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. The board will be empowered to regulate sports gambling, as it does casinos and horse racing.

The bill provides for licensing “sports book” operators, who in turn could contract with others to set up “sports wagering platforms.” A platform contractor would be required to obtain a permit from the board and would be limited to one platform per establishment.

Only 20 licenses would be authorized under Cortez’s bill, with priority given to the state’s 16 casinos already licensed.

A license or permit, the bill warns, is a “revokable privilege and not a right.” Among the multitude of rules outlined in the bill for license and permit holders, such as financial reports, is an anti-money laundering provision.

Voters approved sports betting last November in 56 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, including Lafayette. Sports book operators would not be permitted to operate in the eight parishes that rejected it, all clustered in the north.

“Sports wagering mechanisms” in wagering platforms would not include personal computers or mobile phones.

Betting would become legal on a wide range of competitive professional and amateur sports, but not on high school athletics or certain international youth athletic events.

A companion measure, HB697 by Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, passed the House on May 10, 78-24.

Constitutional amendment would allow civil servants to engage in relatives’ political campaigns

The state House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a constitutional amendment that would allow state civil servants to engage in political activities in support of relatives.

The bill, HB315 by Rep. Jonathan Goudeau, R-Lafayette, passed 92-4, well over the two thirds needed for a constitutional amendment.

Goudeau told the House the current restrictions are “antiquated.”

Six of Lafayette Parish’s representatives voted for it except Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, who was absent.

Currently, the state constitution states Louisiana classified employees cannot run for elective office, serve in a party organization or “participate or engage in political activity.”

Goudeau’s proposed amendment would make an exception for classified employees who are members of a candidate’s “immediate family” — defined as a parent, grandparent, child, a child’s spouse, grandchild or grandchild’s spouse and siblings and their spouses — to participate in a relative’s campaign.

Cousins didn’t make the list.

These relatives would be permitted, during off-duty hours, to attend “campaign-related events” and appear in “campaign advertisements and photographs.”

An amendment added by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee would exclude employees of the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office and employees of local voter registrars.

It now requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate and ratification by the voters in the federal midterm election on Nov. 8, 2022.