(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Senate on Friday approved a measure that would allow state residents to play online fantasy sports for money.
When the House of Representatives sent over House Bill 357 by Rep. Tanner Magee, it called for a ballot measure to let voters decide whether to allow sports betting in their parishes.
Legislators already have approved a sports betting referendum through a different instrument. On Friday, the full state Senate approved committee amendments to Magee’s bill that swapped out the sports wagering proposal for fantasy sports regulations and voted 31-3 to send it back to the House, which would have to approve the changes.
Fantasy sports typically involves creating fake teams with real players. Unlike with sports wagering, winners and losers are not decided by the outcome of real-world sporting events.
Playing fantasy sports already is legal in Louisiana if no money changes hands. But Louisiana residents who use sites like DraftKings and FanDuel that charge fees and award cash prizes could be subject to fines or even jail time.
In 2018, voters in 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved legalizing fantasy sports with cash prizes in their areas. Last year, legislators tried to set up the regulations and tax rates, but former Sen. Danny Martiny, upset about the treatment of his sports betting bill, filibustered away the last moments of the session and blocked the effort.
“We’re simply doing what the people of our state have voted to do,” said Sen. Barrow Peacock, a Bossier City Republican.
Lawmakers cannot set tax rates during the current non-fiscal regular session, but fantasy sports taxation is on the agenda for the special session that begins at 6:01 p.m. Monday.
Under the Senate-approved rules, fantasy sports players would have to be at least 21 years old. Companies that allow this provision to be violated could face a $50,000 fine, Peacock said.
Companies that provide online fantasy sports say their technology can distinguish whether a customer is in a jurisdiction that allows playing for money, though some skeptics dispute that claim.