Could GeoFencing Barriers Be Lifted On Louisiana Sports Betting?

Louisiana sports betting is legal everywhere in the state except in nine parishes in northern and north central Louisiana and one parish on the Texas state line. The nine were excluded from legal sports betting under the 2021 Louisiana law after voters in those parishes voted against legal sports betting in a 2020 referendum. 

The referendum was statewide, and the vote wasn’t exactly close. Sixty-five percent of the state’s voters approved sports betting while 35 percent of the voters disapproved. Fifty-five parishes approved legalization. The nine northern parishes are where the vote failed. 

But numbers — and even votes — can sometimes be deceiving. 

Not everyone in those nine parishes is against sports betting, based on data shared with state regulators showing multiple attempts to use Louisiana sports betting apps in that area.

“It’s interesting how many people in those nine parishes try to use their mobile phones to bet in those parishes,” Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Johns said in a phone interview with Louisiana Sharp on Tuesday.

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Data Shows Sports Betting Interest In Fenced-Out Parishes

The nine non-sports betting parishes are electronically blocked, or “geofenced” off from mobile sports betting operating in the state. According to Johns, the geofencing has worked well, but data from the geofencing contractor GeoComply shows there is interest in sports betting there, regardless of blocked apps. 

Data on mobile sports betting attempts in the nine geofenced parishes shared with Louisiana Sharp by GeoComply shows approximately 10,000 mobile betting attempts were blocked in the nine parishes within the past 30 days. Most of those attempts were made in Sabine Parish on the east Texas border, Franklin Parish in northeastern Louisiana, and Union Parish in the north-central part of the state. 

It’s possible that another referendum could be held at some point should the nine parishes want to give a sports betting vote another try. They missed that chance this year. The 2022 Louisiana State Legislature will adjourn its current session on June 6. 

“There was no legislative action this year in terms of another (sports betting referendum),” Johns told Lousiana Sharp.

But that could eventually change. Any legislator could bring up legislation in a future session that proposes another referendum in those parishes. 

 “I think as we move forward in the future you may see some interest in doing that,” Johns said.

He said gambling views on video poker are changing in at least one parish that opposed it years ago. “You could potentially see that in the future with sports betting.”

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Legal Betting Is Not Far Away

For now, people in those parishes who want to bet legally can do so pretty easily. The nearest legal parish is usually no more than 10 or 15 miles away, said Johns. 

But until voters in the nine parishes change their opinion on sports betting at the polls by official referendum, they won’t be able to legally bet with top apps like Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel from home or their neighborhood hangout. 

“Our job at the Louisiana Gaming Control Board is to follow the legislation,” Johns said. “And so we geofence those nine parishes out.”

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Retail Sportsbook At Superdome?

The addition of the Caesars name to the Superdome last year has been a hot topic among Saints fans since Louisiana lawmakers approved the name change last July.  

When Louisiana Sharp asked Johns if a retail sportsbook would likely be built at the Caesars Superdome, however, the answer was a soft no.

Full-scale retail sportsbooks in Louisiana must be located at a riverboat casino, racino, or Harrah’s New Orleans under the state’s 2021 sports betting law.  Louisiana has 16 licensees now, each partnered with one of seven sportsbooks. 

The Superdome isn’t a riverboat casino, racino, or  Harrah’s New Orleans, so it doesn’t qualify, Johns said, but Louisiana bettors haven’t really seemed to mind. Mobile sports betting tracked during the 2022 Final Four in the 55 Louisiana parishes where sports betting is legal seemed to prove his point. 

“The Final Four was at the Superdome this year,” Johns told Gaming Today. “I had Geocomply, which does our geofencing (to keep bets within the 55 parishes), run some data for me on how many people were betting inside the Superdome or right on the perimeter, maybe one block perimeter. It was absolutely amazing how many people were using their mobile app while they were in the Superdome. The same thing will probably happen at LSU football games and other college stadiums.”

There is a possibility that a sports betting kiosk could open at the Superdome under the Louisiana Lottery Corporation when that agency finalizes its sportsbook rules, possibly later this year. But Johns said that possibility would be up to Caesars Superdome and the lottery — a separate agency from the LGCB. 

“Are they going to want to do that? I don’t know,” Johns said. “I don’t see the reason for doing it because the majority of the (sports) betting right now in Louisiana is mobile, but in terms of LGCB, they are not eligible for a sportsbook. A retail sportsbook has to be one of the big 20 (licensees).” 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.