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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Fantasy sports betting in Louisiana to be decided by parish

Fantasy sports betting in Louisiana to be decided by parish

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana sports fans who want to compete for cash prizes in online fantasy sports games will need the support of their neighbors in Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide on a parish-by-parish basis whether to legalize cash-league fantasy sports contests through sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel, companies that have poured $1 million into pushing passage of the measure.

With fantasy sports websites, people can 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.

Rep. Kirk Talbot is the River Ridge Republican who sponsored the measure. If it wins passage in a parish, Talbot said, people will be able to log into the contest sites if they travel into that parish, even if they don't live there.

The fantasy sports 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, he said.

"It's like video poker. You can go play it in Orleans Parish if you live in St. Tammany Parish, where it isn't authorized,” Talbot said.

Louisiana is one of nine states that don't allow online fantasy sports betting. Legislation passed earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards put the issue on the ballot for voters to settle.

Talbot doesn't expect fantasy sports competitions to be a windfall for Louisiana, which will regulate and tax the games. But he said it doesn't make sense for Louisiana to outlaw the sites.

"It was never billed as an economic driver. It's something that's fun," Talbot said.

Opponents describe the ballot item as expanding gambling in a state that already has casinos, video poker and a lottery. In an email to supporters, Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum — a network of conservative Christian churches — urged people to vote no.

"The nature of this type of gambling is that it is accessible on every computer, tablet, phone or internet-connected device anywhere, unfortunately by anybody, including children," Mills wrote.

Critics of the fantasy sports games haven't launched an organized advertising effort against the legalization effort. But FanDuel and DraftKings have put $500,000 each into a PAC promoting the ballot item through targeted TV and radio ads, digital spots and mailers to individual homes. If successful, the companies stand to get a return through the fees they charge participants.

Parish legalization in next week's election won't immediately change things for sports enthusiasts, however. Lawmakers still will have to determine how to license, regulate and tax fantasy sports contests before people can play them. Talbot said lawmakers will make those decisions in the 2019 legislative session.

"Nobody's going to be betting on fantasy sports in January. It's going to be next fall before we get it all in line," he said.


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