Online Poker in Louisiana
Louisiana’s state laws do not specify whether online poker is legal or illegal but the state supports multiple forms of gambling. Gamblingin the state was legalized in 1991 when the Louisiana legislature passed several statutes to do so. That led to the 1996 establishment of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, which oversees all aspects of gaming activities throughout the state.
Horse racing – including interstate and international pari-mutuel wagering – and riverboat gambling has long been allowed in Louisiana. In 1990, a new lottery was approved by voters of Louisiana, and a new jackpot game called Lotto was introduced two years later. Charity raffles, bingo and keno, and social gambling are also allowed.
As for casinos beyond the riverboat ones, the first land-based establishment opened in 1999, just two years after the legislature approved slot machines at horse racing facilities. The first official racino – combination racetrack and casino – opened in 2003, followed by several more later that year. Larger casinos offer a full range of gambling, from table games to slot machines, and big names are associated with some of the facilities, like Hollywood Casinos, Horseshoe, Golden Nugget, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Sam’s Town, and River City.
The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 gave Native American tribes the opportunity to barter with their state governments to establish compacts for land-based casino gambling. Those were done in Louisiana for the Coushatta Tribe, Tunica Biloxi Tribe, and Chitimacha Tribe, all of which now operate full-fledged casinos.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Louisiana
The state of Louisiana has benefited greatly from its legalized forms of gambling. And as compared to many other states, Louisiana has been fairly progressive in legalizing casinos, racinos, and pari-mutuel wagering. However, until the beginning of 2018, the legislature had yet to seriously consider online poker or internet casino games.
Within the first few months of 2018, several bills were introduced that would legalize internet gambling, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting if the United States Supreme Court rules favorably in a pending case involving New Jersey.
The online gambling bill was S.322, which “provides relative to a public referendum on internet gambling.” The basic idea is that it would provide for a referendum election in any parish that wanted to legalize internet gambling under the regulatory power of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. The proposition on a ballot would read, “Shall internet gaming be allowed to be conducted within the parish of ___?” The voters in said parish must vote yes or no, and it must pass by a majority.
For the sake of this bill, internet gaming is defined as
“any variation or composite of an authorized game that is offered through the internet, provided that such games, or variations or composites, are found suitable for use by the board or any other game which is determined to be suitable by the board. The term includes gaming tournaments conducted via the internet in which players compete against one another in one of more games authorized by the board or in approved variations or composites thereof if the tournament is authorized by the board.”
The downside to the bill is that any parishes that do not specifically legalize online poker and gambling will find themselves specifically in violation of the law. The very first provision of the bill states, “Notwithstanding any provision of the law to the contrary, no internet gaming shall be allowed in any parish unless the operation and conduct of internet gaming is approved at an election held for such purpose.” Poker players and gamers in parishes that do not have officially legalized online poker and gaming would risk being in strict violation of the law by playing on any offshore-based sites.
Should the law pass in 2018 with enough time to spare, parishes could put internet gambling on their November ballots for 2018 and vote on it then. The parishes that vote for online gambling could then see the new law take effect on January 1, 2020. Operators seeking licenses would have to partner with riverboat or land-based casinos in Louisiana in order to be eligible for consideration.
Louisiana Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
- Charitable bingo, keno, and raffles
- Gaming equipment and raffles at trade shows and conventions
- Gaming Control Board
- Television bingo
- Land-based casino gaming
- Video poker
- Riverboat gaming
Title 27 of the state laws is the Louisiana Gaming Control Law, which is more specific regarding the overall public policy with regard to gaming, licensing, and permits. The statute promotes a “controlled gaming industry to promote economic development” and finds that “all persons, locations, practices, associations, and activities related to the operation of licensed and qualified gaming establishments” must be strictly regulated.
One key provision in this law addresses the “use of a counterfeit or unlawful wagering instrument prohibited,” which is described as follows: “It is unlawful for any licensee, permittee, or other person to use a counterfeit or unlawful wagering instrument,” and this includes “any chip, token, coin, voucher, electronic card, or other wagering instrument not approved by the board.” This could be applicable to online poker operators but is not specific enough to know for sure without legal consultation.
Title 14 of the state codedefines the criminal laws of the state, and gambling is listed right after crimes against nature, specifically human-animal hybrids. Gambling in this chapter is defined as
“the intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting, as a business, of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit.”
The penalty for such can be up to $500 and/or prison for up to six months.
The third section of this title addresses gambling by computer. After a solid explanation of the aim of the law to protect Louisiana residents’ rights, it states, “Gambling which occurs via the internet embodies the very activity that the legislature seeks to prevent.”
Its definition is:
“Gambling by computer is the intentional conducting or directly assisting in the conducting as a business of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit when accessing the internet, world wide web, or any part thereof by way of any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or any server.”
After fully describing the internet, the section also states,
“The provisions of this subsection shall not exempt from criminal prosecution any telephone company, internet service provider, software developer, licensor, or other such party if its primary purpose in providing such service is to conduct gambling as a business.”
While this all sounds dire, the rest of the section refers to riverboat gambling and video poker, which is likely what the law is trying to prevent is the accessing of those particular machines via the internet. There is no reference to online poker or other online table games.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is online poker available to Louisiana residents now, before this law may pass?
Answer: Yes. There are several sites, including Bovada and Intertops, that already provide online poker services to players in Louisiana. All of the promotions, bonuses, and games are available, and options for deposits and withdrawals make it simple to play.
Question: What if the law passes and no parish votes to allow internet gaming?
Answer: This means that the new law will specifically outlaw online poker and gambling. It will be important that voters in each parish make the public aware of the positive aspects of online poker and how their areas of the state will benefit from legalizing it. Each parish has the option of legalizing online poker that could begin in 2020.
Question: What is the 2018 law doesn’t pass through the legislature?
Answer: Without the newly-proposed law, the state code will remain the same, which is very ambiguous about online gambling. Current statutes don’t properly address online poker in any way, which means people in Louisiana can continue playing on the sites we recommend for the foreseeable future.
Gaming Resources in Louisiana