Opening of the Paragon Casino Resort, the first sports betting salon in Louisiana

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MARKSVILLE – Louisiana’s premier legal sports betting show opened on Wednesday afternoon at Paragon Casino Resort, ushering in the state’s largest gaming expansion in three decades.

Paragon has partnered with Betfred Sports to open The Draft Room, a Las Vegas-style sports book featuring theater seats, a personalized video wall, bet counters and kiosks.

“Our sports bar that connects to The Draft Room has been open since April, and our guests call every day to ask when sports betting will open,” said Marshall Sampson Sr., general manager of Paragon Casino, in an interview with USA Today Network. .

“There was a high level of excitement and anticipation associated with this milestone,” said Sampson, who noted that Louisiana had fled some gambling customers to Mississippi, where sports betting was already. available.

Retired New Orleans Saints fan favorite Joe Horn has made the first official bet – a long-odds seven-team bet in which he must pick all seven winners to cash out. “I bet a little money to win a lot,” Horn said.

The Louisiana legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards legalized sports betting in 2020 in parishes where voters approved it, but lawmakers had to return in 2021 to finalize regulation and taxation.

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It is the biggest expansion in the game since the legislature established lottery, casinos, and video poker in the early 1990s.

The game generated around $ 600 million in state taxes in 2020.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said the addition of sports betting at Paragon and other casinos “will be a big tourist draw for Louisiana and put us on a par with Mississippi.”

Paragon is a tribal casino operated by the Louisiana Tunica-Biloxi Tribe, so it’s not regulated by the Louisiana Gaming Commission and won’t pay state taxes, but Paragon needed final legalization to open.

Players will only be able to place sports bets in person for now, but Paragon officials have said mobile apps will follow, although no timeline has been set.

State-licensed casino betting houses are expected to follow Paragon’s lead soon, Louisiana Gaming Commission chairman Ronnie Johns told USA Today Network.

“They’re getting closer, but I think it’s going to take a few more weeks,” Johns said. “I have never seen such interest in anything that I have seen in sports betting.”

Like Paragon, all of the first sports betting options in Louisiana’s licensed riverboats and land-based casinos and racetracks will be found in on-site sports betting for in-person betting.

Johns said it will be months before mobile sports game apps go live.

“Mobile takes longer because casinos use external vendors to do this work, and those vendors don’t have a license yet, so they have to go through the match process and background checks with the police. ‘State,’ Johns said. “We hope some of them will be approved within a 60-day window.”

And it could be January before bars and restaurants can secure sports betting kiosks for their customers. This segment of sports betting is controlled by the Louisiana Lottery rather than the Gaming Control Board.

Louisiana Lottery President Rose Hudson said his agency was working on a two-track timeline to accelerate the retail segment – researching suppliers and enacting rules.

“We should be full by November,” Hudson said with a targeted deployment in early 2022.

“We believe this segment of the industry will be well received by our states (bars and restaurants),” said Hudson, who is also the general manager of the lottery. “It gives businesses another way to attract customers.

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Voters in 55 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved the legalization of sports betting in their communities last fall, but lawmakers had to put in place the framework to regulate and tax sports betting in the spring 2021 legislative session .

Sports betting will continue to be banned in Caldwell, Catahoula, Franklin, Jackson, LaSalle, Sabine, Union, West Carroll and Winn, the parishes where voters have rejected the extension of the games.

Geofencing technology will prevent residents of these parishes from accessing mobile sports betting applications.

The Game control board adopted emergency rules to speed up the process last month.

These emergency rules are in place for 180 days, but officials from the Louisiana attorney general’s office said they plan to enact permanent rules before the 180 days expire.

Greg Hilburn covers state policy for the USA TODAY network in Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @ GregHilburn1.


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