Louisiana Race and Sports Wagering
Horse racing has been a part of Louisiana culture since the late 1800s, which did not bode well for anti-gambling groups at the time. In 1908, the Louisiana Legislature passed a bill that outlawed horse racing, commonly referred to as the Locke Law. However, only eight years later, the Locke Law was repealed. It wasn't until 1968 that the legislators passed an Act that first established laws to regulate the business of racing horses and pari-mutuel wagering in the state. This Act, called the Act of 1968, also established the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC), a regulatory body responsible for directing and enforcing all statutes regarding horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering held in the state. The LSRC is made up of 13 board members appointed by the governor. Members must be 31 years of age or older and have resided in Louisiana for at least five years preceding the appointment. Six members each represent a congressional district where live racing is held, four each represent one of the parishes, and three are at-large. Offtrack betting began in 1988. Simulcast betting was introduced in November 1998, while advance account wagering was legalized in 2000.
In 1996, Lafayette Parish, where Evangeline Downs Racetrack was located at the time, voted to ban video poker and casino gambling. Evangeline Downs planned to add these gaming activities, saying that the long-term survival of live horse racing could only occur with the addition of casino gaming. The 1996 vote resulted in the track owners deciding to relocate the facility to Opelousas, in Saint Landry Parish County, where casino gambling had been voted in. In February 2003, Evangeline Downs started construction on a new $96 million Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino in Opelousas and in December 2003, the Evangeline Downs casino in Opelousas opened. Almost two years later, in April 2005, the new racetrack was open.
In April 2008, a bill (SB785) was proposed to bring horse racing back to the original Evangeline Downs site in Carencro, which had not hosted any races since Evangeline Downs moved to its new facility in Opelousas in 2005. The measure did not pass because of strong opposition from anti-gambling groups, casino lobbies and Gov. Jindal, who opposed expanded gambling.
In May 2008, House members approved HB937, which would have allowed St. Gabriel in Iberville Parish voters to cast ballots on whether they wanted a new horse racing track with slot machines in their district. Gov. Jindal said that he would veto the bill because it was an expansion of gambling. The Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA) supported the new track, which they asserted would provide St. Gabriel with an economic boost. The racetrack and casino would have been under the jurisdiction of both the LSRC and the Gaming Control Board. The governor vetoed the bill on 2 July 2008.
On that day, the Governor also vetoed bill SB396, which would have lowered the legal age for gaming from 21 to 18 for active and honorably discharged members of the military and National Guard. Gov. Jindal viewed the bill as an expansion of gambling.
In 2009, Senator Nick Gautreaux filed SB 231 (Act 242), which required an association that conducted offtrack wagering in Louisiana to offer live horse racing for a minimum of 130 racing days within one year. Act 242 also required a minimum of 84 thoroughbred racing days held during 21 consecutive weeks and not less than 46 quarter-horse racing days during 12 consecutive weeks. The governor signed Act 242 on 1 July 2009, with an effective date of 15 August 2009. The Fair Grounds Race Course had a different number of thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing days. The legislation provided that Fair Grounds needed to maintain at least 80 thoroughbred horse racing days over a 52-week period, conducted during 20 consecutive weeks, and at least 10 quarter-horse racing days held during three consecutive weeks.
On 20 November 2012, final legal approval was given to Boyd Gaming to buy Peninsula Gaming for $1.45 billion. The sale included, among other state gambling properties, Evangeline Downs & Casino, owned by Peninsula Gaming since September 2002.
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