Louisiana has a unique online gaming environment. Tribal and commercial sportsbooks cannot offer sports betting on each other’s lands. Sportsbooks must block sports wagers from Louisiana’s nine anti-sports betting parishes. Additionally, two different branches of the State Police are in charge of enforcing geofence boundaries. It’s a lot for sportsbooks and their regulators to manage. However, one technology makes managing this logistical nightmare possible: geofencing.
Geofencing means creating a digital fence around a geographic area. Mobile sportsbooks use geofences for two things: allowing bets in legal areas and blocking bets from illegal areas. In an email exchange with Louisiana Sharp, Captain Nick Manale of the Louisiana State Police revealed how sportsbooks set geofences around parish boundaries.
“The sportsbook geofences used KML files from LADOTD to set the parish boundaries,” Manale wrote. “The data associated with the geofence will be shared with the sportsbook operators by the geofencing operator.”
KML files are data files that describe the geography, and the LADOTD is Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development. So, the organization in charge of transportation infrastructure shares the parish border files with sportsbook operators. That way, mobile sportsbooks can draw the correct boundaries around Louisiana’s parishes and tribal lands. These geofences will also give Louisiana bettors different mobile sports betting experiences from each other. Here are five ways that geofencing will affect Louisiana sports bettors.
Many Bettors Can Wager From Home
Most of Louisiana’s new sports bettors will be able to download sportsbook apps and bet from their homes. Events like NFL Sunday will become opportunities for rowdy friends and family members to put their money where their mouths are. It’ll engage bettors in their favorite games and give sports fans new entertainment options. Mobile sports betting will be a boon to bettors who host parties during popular games.
Live betting will likely be one of the most popular ways for Louisiana bettors to bet. It’ll let bettors wager on fluctuating odds that respond to in-game performances. Live betting gives bettors new stakes to bet on, further engaging bettors in the games they watch. Mobile sports betting will transform how sports fans engage with their favorite games, leagues, and teams.
Some Bettors Must Travel To Bet
Nine Louisiana parishes voted to opt-out of sports betting legalization. That’s an unusual amount of power for a state county to hold. However, Louisiana’s parishes could do that because of the fine print in their 2020 sports betting votes.
“Louisiana parishes can block sports betting because each parish had to vote to allow sports betting in the respective parish,” Manale wrote.
States usually decide whether to allow sports betting across the entire state. Louisiana is the only one that gave individual parishes the chance to decide for themselves.
No one can place sports wagers from these nine parishes:
- West Carrol
Sportsbooks will block wagers from these parishes so bettors will have to cross parish borders to place mobile sports wagers in legal markets. Legal mobile sports betting markets are only a 20-30 minute drive away for most of these parishes so bettors in these parishes will experience a mobile sports betting market that feels like a retail sports betting market. When there’s one place that bettors must travel to, mobile sports betting loses the convenience that separates it from retail sportsbooks.
But sports bettors won’t be visiting lavish retail sportsbook lounges that make the travel worth it. Bettors will gather at the first WiFi connection across the parish border.
Border Businesses Will Boom
Before New York legalized mobile sports betting, it lost millions of dollars in sports betting revenue to New Jersey. About 20% of FanDuel’s sports betting revenue in New Jersey came from New Yorkers. A 20-minute ferry ride across the river was more convenient for many bettors than a two-hour drive to the closest retail sportsbook in New York. That trend was visible to anyone who visited the Starbucks near the ferry. It was noticeably crowded on major game days.
Businesses along anti-sports betting parish borders will likely get a similar boost from traveling sports bettors. Mobile sports betting can turn any sports bar, coffee shop, or similar business into a sports lounge. So, opportunistic companies on anti-sports betting parish borders will be able to exploit this opportunity. Many will because sports bettors are willing to travel.
These businesses will be a boon for sports bettors and an irritant to anti-sports betting parishes. When anti-sports betting parishes see the revenue they’re losing just across their borders, activists or local politicians may raise the issue. This lost revenue could inspire petitions to legalize sports betting and even lead to new referendums on the issue. However, that will come from a sustained effort from sports betting proponents. Sports betting proponents will have to get sports betting on the ballot and win the vote to legalize sports betting in their parishes.
Geofencing Around Tribal Lands Offers Exclusive Sportsbooks
Tribal gaming is regulated differently than commercial gaming. Commercial casinos are subject to state and federal gaming regulations. They’re regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and the Gaming Division of the Louisiana State Police. Commercial casinos are also allowed to offer retail sportsbooks inside parishes that voted to allow sports betting. Sportsbooks can partner with Louisiana casinos to offer mobile sportsbooks in the parishes where sports betting is legal.
The State of Louisiana, however, doesn’t directly oversee tribal gaming. Instead, Native American tribes have an agreement on how to operate gaming on tribal land inside Louisiana. The Department of the Interior approves gaming compacts between state governments and Native American tribes. Those gaming compacts are why Louisiana’s tribes can offer sports betting on tribal lands. Louisiana’s tribes are also regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Even though it’s separate from Louisiana gaming authorities, tribal sportsbooks are safe and regulated.
Special rules apply to tribal geofences, too. Sportsbooks that partner with tribal gaming will have to geofence themselves inside tribal lands. Tribal sportsbooks will be able to offer mobile sportsbooks that are unavailable outside their reservations. Commercial sportsbooks won’t take bets from tribal lands unless they’re partnered with the tribe that owns the land.
So, bettors will need to be aware of where their favorite sportsbooks are available. Businesses bordering tribal geofence boundaries may get the same lift as businesses that border anti-sports betting parishes. Tribal bettors won’t want to be limited in their sportsbook choices any more than bettors in anti-sports betting parishes will.
Central And Southern Louisiana Remain Gambling Hotspots
While some tribes own land in northern Louisiana, most of the parishes that rejected sports betting were in the rural north. (Lafourche Parish is the major exception.) Riverboat and retail casinos are mostly in central and southern Louisiana. Even though mobile sports betting is available in most of Louisiana, including the rural north, most gaming businesses are down south.
While mobile sports betting is a shiny new revenue source, it won’t hold a candle to casino revenue. Louisiana’s mobile sportsbooks are projected to earn $219 million in annual revenue. Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans made $213 million in revenue from July 2020 to June 2021.
And that was a slow year.
Mobile sports betting isn’t going to transform Louisiana’s gaming economy, but it will drastically change bettor behavior. It will make it easier to bet, so more people will be willing to try it. Habitual bettors will bet more often because major sportsbooks are built to offer live betting lines frequently. Bettors’ expectations for gambling products will evolve when mobile sports betting goes online. Ultimately, bettors’ expectations could pave the way for online casino legalization in Louisiana.
Online casinos will likely be a more complicated political issue in Louisiana than online sports betting. Mobile sportsbooks complement retail casinos. They don’t threaten to replace them or reduce foot traffic inside them, but mobile sports betting legalization is an essential step in bringing a modern igaming industry to Louisiana.
Louisiana’s Many Moving Parts
Louisiana is a dynamic sports betting market. At maturity, it will have retail sportsbooks at casinos, mobile sportsbooks across the state, and tribal sportsbooks with their own regulations. On top of that, nine parishes voted against sports betting, limiting mobile sportsbooks’ reach. It’s a lot for Louisiana regulators to organize.
Even though bettors don’t have to worry about the regulatory details of geofencing, they’ll notice the impacts of those details. Louisiana businesses will increasingly cater to sports bettors. That catering will magnify the divisions between pro and anti-sports betting parishes. It will also draw tribal sports bettors to parish borders where more sportsbooks are available. Mobile sports betting’s behavioral impact on Louisianans will outweigh its economic impact on the state of Louisiana.