Louisiana Legislature quickly moving gambling changes sought by industry
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Louisiana lawmakers have yet to come across a new gambling proposal they haven’t liked during the first two weeks of the 2018 legislative session. All 11 pieces of gambling legislation that have come up in House and Senate committees have been approved.
More could be in the works: Proposals on sports betting, fantasy sports and internet gambling haven’t been brought up for a vote yet.
The session is shaping up to be a historic one for Louisiana’s gambling industry. Lawmakers have filed more than three dozen proposals to change regulations and legalize new forms of gambling. It will likely see the largest number gambling laws approved since 1993 when Louisiana first authorized riverboat casinos.
Here are the bills that have advanced so far:
Moving riverboat casinos on land
A Senate committee has advanced a bill that would allow Louisiana’s 15 riverboat casinos to officially move on land as long as they end up 1,200 feet from their existing locations.
Casino operators would have to have to make a case to the Louisiana Gaming Control Board that the move would promote economic development. The casinos also would no longer need an operating paddle wheel, under Senate Bill 316, which Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, is proposing.
Restrictions on the riverboat casino gambling space would change as well. Currently, they are limited to 30,000 square feet. The limitation would change to the number of machines or gambling seats in a casino, with a cap of 2,635.
Casino operators said the proposal wouldn’t necessarily increase the number of machines and seats at some casinos, but it will allow them to purchase larger, more modern machines that take up more space.
Also under the bill, riverboats would also be allowed to hold four gambling tournaments per year.
Capping taxes paid on freebies
Starting in July 2020, casinos, video poker operators and racetracks wouldn’t necessarily have to pay taxes on all of the vouchers, free chips and other giveaways they offer to lure people to their facilities, under proposed legislation. A Senate committee moved Senate Bill 320 forward this week.
Currently, casinos have to pay taxes on such incentives. The proposal would allow operators to appeal to the Gaming Control Board to only pay taxes on a “baseline” value of its giveaways. Any revenue the casinos make over and above this baseline would not be subjected to taxes. Casinos could also ask the board to lower their baselines, thereby decreasing their tax burden.
Johns, who also authored this bill, said it is supposed to help Louisiana compete with Mississippi casinos, which don’t have to pay taxes on vouchers and other giveaways.
Relaxing video poker rules
A Senate committee approved two bills that lower costs for video poker operators, particularly those that operate at truck stops.
Senate Bill 184, sponsored by Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, would allow a wider variety of video poker displays and more poker hands to be on the screen at one time.
Truck stops also would no longer have sell a certain amount of fuel every month to keep the video poker machines they already have if they have been open for at least 10 years. Parking restrictions for truck stops would also be relaxed, and all video poker operators would no longer have to keep a restaurant open for 12 hours per day.
Senate Bill 230, sponsored by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, proposes the same restaurant and parking regulations at truck stop poker outlets as Martiny’s, though it doesn’t address the fuel or machine display regulations. It’s considered a “placeholder” in case Martiny’s bill doesn’t get approved.
Source: European Gaming Industry News