Louisiana parishes overwhelmingly back fantasy sports gaming
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Voters in nearly three-quarters of Louisiana’s parishes agreed to legalize online fantasy sports contests for cash prizes, setting in motion a process that could see people in the state playing the games by late 2019.
Forty-seven of Louisiana’s 64 parishes supported the ballot measure in Tuesday’s election, making Louisiana the 42nd state to allow online fantasy sports betting. The 17 parishes that rejected the idea are primarily in rural pockets of north Louisiana.
With websites such as DraftKings and FanDuel, people create imaginary teams of real-life sports players and score points based on how those players perform in actual games. The sites charge an entry fee and offer payouts to winners.
Lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed to let voters decide on a parish-by-parish basis whether to legalize the cash-league fantasy sports contests. Backers said the games are fun and people should be able to make their own decisions about participating.
Support was strongest in the New Orleans area. In Orleans Parish, 73 percent of those who voted backed the fantasy sports proposal, according to unaudited returns from the secretary of state’s office. In neighboring parishes, the measure won 71 percent of the vote in St. Bernard, 69 percent in Jefferson, 67 percent in Plaquemines and 62 percent in St. Tammany.
Parishes containing all of Louisiana’s major cities backed the idea, including Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Ouachita and Rapides. In a few places, backing for fantasy sports was narrow, with fewer than 60 votes deciding the issue in East Feliciana Parish and 103 votes settling it in Natchitoches Parish.
Opponents called legalization an expansion of gambling, but they failed to win over most of the state with the argument. Refusing to legalize the online fantasy sports competitions were: Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Caldwell, Catahoula, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, LaSalle, Morehouse, Richland, Sabine, Union, Vernon, West Carroll and Winn parishes.
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DraftKings and FanDuel poured $1 million into a PAC called Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana that pushed passage of the measure through targeted TV and radio ads, digital spots and mailers to individual homes.
“Last night’s resounding results are a major step forward for sports fans in Louisiana. Parishes representing 92 percent of the state’s population said they want fantasy sports permitted, like in 41 other states,” Ryan Berni, with Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana, said in a statement Wednesday.
Tuesday’s election results won’t immediately change things.
Before Louisiana residents can start participating in FanDuel, DraftKings and other similar sites, lawmakers must enact rules and taxing plans, to be debated in next year’s legislative session. The Louisiana Gaming Control Board also will have to roll out its regulations.
River Ridge Republican Rep. Kirk Talbot, who sponsored the ballot proposal, said he expects sports enthusiasts will be able to start betting on fantasy sports around fall 2019.
Though the games only will be permitted in parishes where voters authorized it, anybody will be able to log into the online sites if they travel to those parishes. Talbot said the sites will use a technology called geofencing to wall off designated areas, so people using computers or mobile phones outside of those spaces can’t participate. Logistics remain to be worked out.
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