Legal mobile fantasy sports could come to Louisiana later this year

The state will start taking applications for fantasy sports operators next month

FanDuel
A FanDuel advertisement is seen as the New Orleans Saints take the field against the Washington at FedExField on November 15, 2015 in Landover, Maryland.. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Louisiana will start accepting applications for legal fantasy sports operations Feb. 19, paving the way for the state to bring cash-backed competitions run by companies like FanDuel and DraftKings to residents’ mobile phones by the end of this spring.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board passed regulations and licensing requirements for fantasy sports operators Thursday (Jan. 21). Voters in 47 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes approved fantasy sports in 2018, but it has taken legislators and regulators over two years to come up with a tax structure and other regulations for the games.

Louisiana State Police provides enforcement for the state’s gambling industry and will screen potential operators for the gaming board. Once an application is filed, the state police will take two to three months to complete an investigation of the company. Assuming it passes the background check, the company can then appear before the gaming control board for final license approval.

The new regulations will not affect fantasy football leagues run by friends or the typical “March Madness” office pool. This legalization primarily opens up the door to mobile phone apps that offer cash prizes on thousands of sports-affiliated competitions every day.

DraftKings, FanDuel and other smartphone apps mostly offer daily fantasy sports games played against strangers, rather than season-long leagues. The apps enable fans to play multiple games and spend money more easily than traditional fantasy sports setups. Currently in Louisiana, such apps cannot be legally operated.

But after operators acquire state licenses later this year, fantasy sports is expected to come online quickly in those parishes where voters approved it. Anyone who is physically present in the parishes that voted for fantasy sports will be able to play the games, though when a person enters one of the 17 parishes that shot down fantasy sports, the mobile apps will no longer work. Participants are also supposed to be 21 years old to play. 

In 2020, the Louisiana Legislature voted to impose an 8 percent tax on fantasy sports activity. But the state is expected to collect relatively little money — just $375,000 annually — in fantasy sports taxes. Lawmakers have already passed a law to dedicate the money to early childhood education programs.