Louisiana

Sports Betting in Louisiana

To completely cover the history and future of gambling in the state of Louisiana would require an entire book. Gambling has been a key part of Louisiana’s culture since the days of the original French settlers. Many well known games found their way to the United States through New Orleans, not the least of which being the game now known as blackjack.  There have been some efforts to crackdown on gambling during the past three hundred or so years but they never proved successful. Today, players in the Bayou State enjoy a wide range of gambling options.

It’s unfair to the rich history of gambling in the state to even try to cover it in just a few paragraphs. Here’s a bit of background to provide context as to just how long gambling has been part of the Louisiana culture. The first government run casino in Louisiana opened in 1753 under the jurisdiction of Governor Louis Billouart de Kerrlerec. This took place after a several decade attempt to outlaw gambling entirely failed miserably. As would be the case in many jurisdictions since the thinking became that since it isn’t practical to eliminate gambling that the state should see some profit from it. Louisiana would be exempt from the 1812 Federal ban on gambling.

In 1866, the Louisiana State Lottery opened for business. This shouldn’t be confused with the current Louisiana Lottery which was founded in 1991. The original Louisiana State Lottery was a catalyst of a regional lottery boom in the mid to late 1800’s that saw privately administered games sweep throughout the Southeast. Along with this upswing in the popularity of lotteries came all sorts of corruption in and out of government along with many political and legal challenges. The Louisiana State Lottery would run until 1895 when Governor Murphy Foster was able to shut it down for good.

Even during Louisiana’s crackdown on gambling during the 1900s it wouldn’t disappear entirely. Parimutuel wagering on horses racing at fairgrounds remained legal. Horse racing in Louisiana dates back to the early 1800s and continues to this day. The most important track is the Fair Grounds Race Course which traces its history back to 1839. The track has operated under several names including the ‘Louisiana Race Course’, the ‘Union Race Course’ and the ‘Creole Race Course’. In 1863, the track became the ‘Fair Grounds’ and continued to hold live race meets throughout the Civil War. The track is now owned by the parent company of Churchill Downs and depending on who you ask is either the second or third oldest horse racing facility in the United States.

In 1991, after nearly a century of veritable prohibition gambling returned to Louisiana in a big way. We’ve already mentioned the revival of the Louisiana Lottery in 1991 but it was also the year that the state approved 15 riverboat casinos, a land based casino and video poker machines. Two years later, three Native American tribes reach an agreement with the state to open casinos on tribal land. In 1997, the state approved slot machines at Louisiana horse racing tracks. Video poker is now legal (subject to individual parish option) in truck stops, bars and OTB locations.

Today, there is abundant gambling in Louisiana starting with the Louisiana Lottery. The state’s lottery offers a typical range of options with several draw games, Powerball, Mega Bucks and an assortment of scratch offs. One thing that is immediately apparent from a look at the Louisiana Lottery website is the absence of online betting options. The state explicitly outlawed ‘gambling by computer’ in 1997 due primarily to fears of competition with the other gaming interests in Louisiana.

There’s plenty of casino gaming available in Louisiana but it can be downright confusing trying to figure out which games are offered in which facilities. Let’s start with the casinos at the state’s parimutuel horse racing facilities. These properties are allowed to offer slot machines but not video poker machines. Off track betting facilities can offer video poker games but not slot machines. Land based casinos, Native American casinos and riverboats (more about them in a moment) can offer a wide range of table games and slots including blackjack, craps, roulette, slots, video poker, three card poker and Mississippi stud. Optional games include: Spanish 21, baccarat, mini-baccarat, poker, Caribbean stud poker, pai gow poker, let it ride, casino war, four card poker, big 6 wheel, keno, Texas hold ‘em Bonus, ultimate Texas hold em and bingo. Certain types of businesses—primarily truck stops but also bars and OTB facilities—can offer video poker in 31 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes (counties).

A recent development will change the casino gaming landscape in Louisiana even more. On May 23, 2018 Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law Senate Bill 316 which allows the floating ‘riverboat’ casinos to move 1,200 feet on shore from their current location. This means that the riverboats have the option of becoming a land based casino though they must wait six months to apply. There was also a change to their allowed gambling offerings. Previously, riverboats were allowed to have 30,000 square feet of gambling space. The new rules allow a maximum of 2,365 ‘gambling positions’. What, you might ask, is a ‘gambling position’? It’s any place where you can gamble from a seat at a poker table to a slot machine. Or that’s the general idea since the regulations were adopted without a formal definition of what constitutes a ‘gambling position’.

Given the dynamic nature of the Louisiana gambling scene it wouldn’t surprise us to see them add sports betting sooner rather than later. A house bill was introduced in March 2018 but failed to gain much support, primarily due to its intention to limit sports betting to the gaming properties already in operation at horse tracks.

Sports Betting in New Orleans

It’s not an overstatement to suggest that New Orleans is the historical epicenter of gambling in the United States. Gambling has been a key part of Louisiana’s culture since the days of the original French settlers. Many well known games found their way to the United States through New Orleans, not the least of which being the game now known as blackjack. There have been some efforts to crackdown on gambling during the past three hundred or so years but they never proved successful. Today, players in the Bayou State enjoy a wide range of gambling options.

Interestingly, much of the early history of gambling in New Orleans took place well before Louisiana gained statehood in 1812. By the end of the 1800’s, the Louisiana state government had all but eliminated legal gambling in the state. Only parimutuel wagering was spared. Horse racing in Louisiana dates back to the early 1800s and continues to this day. The most important track is the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans which traces its history back to 1839. The track is now owned by the parent company of Churchill Downs and depending on who you ask is either the second or third oldest horse racing facility in the United States. In addition to live racing they offer simulcasting and video gambling machines (more about that in a moment).

The Louisiana Lottery started in 1991 which was also the year that the state approved 15 riverboat casinos, a land based casino and video poker machines. Two years later, three Native American tribes reach an agreement with the state to open casinos on tribal land. In 1997, the state approved slot machines at Louisiana horse racing tracks. Video poker is now legal (subject to individual parish option) in truck stops, bars and OTB locations.

Today, there is abundant gambling in Louisiana starting with the Louisiana Lottery. The state’s lottery offers a typical range of options with several draw games, Powerball, Mega Bucks and an assortment of scratch offs. One thing that is immediately apparent from a look at the Louisiana Lottery website is the absence of online betting options. The state explicitly outlawed ‘gambling by computer’ in 1997 due primarily to fears of competition with the other gaming interests in Louisiana.

There’s plenty of casino gaming available in Louisiana but it can be downright confusing trying to figure out which games are offered in which facilities. Let’s start with the casinos at the state’s parimutuel horse racing facilities. These properties are allowed to offer slot machines but not video poker machines. Off track betting facilities can offer video poker games but not slot machines. Land based casinos, Native American casinos and riverboats (more about them in a moment) can offer a wide range of table games and slots including blackjack, craps, roulette, slots, video poker, three card poker and Mississippi stud. Optional games include: Spanish 21, baccarat, mini-baccarat, poker, Caribbean stud poker, pai gow poker, let it ride, casino war, four card poker, big 6 wheel, keno, Texas hold ‘em Bonus, ultimate Texas hold em and bingo. Certain types of businesses—primarily truck stops but also bars and OTB facilities—can offer video poker in 31 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes (counties). There’s also a huge land based property in New Orleans—Harrah’s New Orleans—with plans for several more.

A recent development will change the casino gaming landscape in Louisiana even more. On May 23, 2018 Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law Senate Bill 316 which allows the floating ‘riverboat’ casinos to move 1,200 feet on shore from their current location. This means that the riverboats have the option of becoming a land based casino though they must wait six months to apply. There was also a change to their allowed gambling offerings. Previously, riverboats were allowed to have 30,000 square feet of gambling space. The new rules allow a maximum of 2,365 ‘gambling positions’. What, you might ask, is a ‘gambling position’? It’s any place where you can gamble from a seat at a poker table to a slot machine. Or that’s the general idea since the regulations were adopted without a formal definition of what constitutes a ‘gambling position’. Interestingly, New Orleans currently doesn’t have any riverboat casinos within the city limits. At one point, the city had three riverboat gaming properties but Flamingo Casino New Orleans, River City Casino and the Showboat Star Casino all closed within three years of each other in the late 1990s. Two riverboat casinos remain in the area outside of city limits with the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner and the Boomtown New Orleans in Harvey. Only time will tell if the new regulations will revive the riverboat gambling scene in New Orleans.

Given the dynamic nature of the Louisiana gambling scene it wouldn’t surprise us to see them add sports betting sooner rather than later. A house bill was introduced in March 2018 but failed to gain much support, primarily due to its intention to limit sports betting to the gaming properties already in operation at horse tracks.

As seen on