Louisiana sports betting industry booms, but local restaurants and bars left out

Louisiana's new sports betting industry is booming on mobile apps and in lavish casino parlors, but the plan to make retail sports wagering available to local restaurants and bars is dead for now.

Louisiana Lottery CEO Rose Hudson said her initial partner for the platform, BetMGM, declined to move forward, and Hudson said she doesn't have bandwidth within the lottery to stand up the infrastructure.

"We don't have a partner to move forward and we wouldn't be able to set it up ourselves," Hudson told USA Today Network. "My core business is running the lottery, not a sports betting operation."

Louisiana lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards passed a bill two years ago shepherded by Republican Senate President Page Cortez of Lafayette and Republican Rep. John Stefanski of Crowley to legalize sports betting.

The legislation directed the Louisiana Gaming Commission to implement and regulate sports betting on mobile apps and in casinos, but a third component to make betting kiosks available on a retail level to restaurants and bars was placed under the authority of the Louisiana Lottery.

Sports betting in casinos and through mobile apps went online in January 2022 and generated $1.8 billion in wagers and $26.5 million in state tax revenue in the first year under the Louisiana Gaming Commission with high rollers like "Mattress Mack" Jim McIngvale drawing attention with million-dollar bets.

BetMGM won a bid to partner with the lottery to run the bar and retail platform, but backed out because the company didn't think it would be profitable enough, Hudson said.

Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, placed a $1 million bet at the Horseshoe Casino in Westlake, La., on Dec. 12, 2022 on the Houston Cougars to win the men's Final Four.
Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, placed a $1 million bet at the Horseshoe Casino in Westlake, La., on Dec. 12, 2022 on the Houston Cougars to win the men's Final Four.

"They declined to move forward because of the economic viability," Hudson said.

Stefanski said he and Cortez will confer when the Legislature convenes for its April 10 Regular Session to see if there is a path to move forward.

"Page and I have talked about it and we're going to reassess the viability," Stefanski said. "We knew the mobile component and casinos would make up the vast majority of the business, but we wanted to create a component that would give local business owners a path to profit from the new industry."

Stefanski said he isn't giving up on exploring a way to implement the local retail component.

"There's still a lot of interest from local business owners," Stefanski said. "We want to take another look and see if we can come up with some cleanup legislation that might make it economically viable to implement."

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1 

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Louisiana effort to offer sports betting at local bars, restaurants fails