Louisiana Online Gambling Laws

The Bayou State has a rich multicultural history, a vibrant culture, beautiful varied geography and a nice broad spread of casinos and gambling options. One of the first states to legalize riverboat casinos, Louisiana contains many of these as well as several land-based venues and tribal casinos as well. While it is one of a handful of states to expressly forbid online gambling, there has nonetheless been some recent talk on the subject amongst lawmakers.  

Louisiana actually started legalizing gambling way back in 1823, after existing as a state for just eleven years, licensing six “temples of chance” for gambling action. Although the licenses were repealed just twelve years later amidst fears of their having prompted rising crime levels, the trend in gambling continued unabated, with an estimated 500 gambling establishments in New Orleans by 1840.

For a full account of the early, shifty days of Louisiana’s gambling history consult this historical account [1]. For more on what’s happening right now, read on.

The Letter of the Law

Louisiana state law defines any game involving an element of chance as a form of gambling, and hence as illegal except where regulated by the state. The emphasis of the law is focused on prosecuting those who organize and run illegal games, but nonetheless participants can be charged as well.

As far as poker is concerned, it is firmly regarded as a game of chance, as expressed in the following precedent court statement quoted in this excellent guide to Louisiana gambling laws from Gaming Law Masters [2]“[I]t is a matter of common knowledge concerning which there can be no doubt or dispute that draw poker is a gambling game, pure and simple, more widely recognized as such than any other game known to the American people”.

Room is made under the law for charity gaming using raffles, bingo and keno, and charities licensed to run such games channel some of the proceeds back to the state. Horseracing and a state lottery are allowed and regulated by state law, and social gambling seems to be tolerated provided the game occurs in private premises, and not in public, and also crucially that no rake or consideration is gained by the host, otherwise the private premises would qualify as a gambling house, making it firmly illegal.

Punishments are quite strict in Louisiana if you do break the gambling laws, and interestingly, anyone living from gambling is considered a vagrant under state law, which is punishable by a fine of $200 and six months in prison!

Other punishments include six months in prison and a $500 fine for gambling in public, 5 – 20 years in prison for forging lottery tickets, and up to 10 years in prison for cheating in a wager whose value exceeds $500.

Finally, online gambling is expressly prohibited in Louisiana, with stiff penalties especially for designers of gambling sites or providers of online gambling, who are liable for up to 5 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. Read more on this particular issue below.

Legal Online Gambling Laws in Louisiana

Louisiana is one of a very few states to specifically forbid online gambling by statute, making illegal “the intentional 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”.

While the phrase “as a business” might lead some to conclude that this ruling was concerned only with providing online gambling to others, this seems most unlikely given that breaking this law is punishable by 6 months in prison and a $500 fine, whereas “whoever designs, develops, manages, supervises, maintains, provides, or produces any computer services related to internet gambling may be punished by up to 5 years and $20,000”. These quotes are courtesy of the Gaming Law Masters document referenced above.

While there may be some room to legally scrutinize the meaning of the term “as a business” in the statute quoted above, it would certainly take a legal mind and not a web researcher to advise on this, and without such advice I would suggest assuming that any online gambling conducted within the state qualifies as strictly illegal at the current time.

Now, this may all seem pretty gloomy as regards the future prospects for online gambling in the state, but it ain’t necessarily so. There has been a little bit of movement on this issue in recent months, with Louisiana state representative Mike Huval reportedly encouraging his fellow legislators to review state law on Internet gaming. Huval was speaking out in favor of legislating for intra-state online gambling. While this is merely a legislative whisper of a possibility at this time, it’s a little bit more than nothing.

What Forms of Gambling are Legal in Louisiana

Louisiana has a great range of options for folk who want to have a gamble, including of course a state lottery [3], and pari-mutuel horseracing tracks. The lottery has supplied the state with millions and millions of dollars in revenue over the years, much of which has been channeled into education.

As for horseracing, this helpful guide [4] will see you straight, listing the best options across all regions of Louisiana, including one of the reputed best thoroughbred racetracks in the nation, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. A really top notch guide, this page includes full contact detail, listings of all amenities featured at each track, and of course links to the tracks’ own websites.

The state allows charity gaming including keno, raffles and bingos. These are always an option if you’re looking for a game of pure luck that doesn’t require a visit to a casino. Home games are apparently tolerated under the law if run in private with no consideration, so that’s always a viable option as well.

But if you’re really after a full blown gambling experience, there really are plenty of good venues out there. With over a dozen riverboat casinos, tribal offerings and several land-based casinos as well, there’s really no shortage of locations for a good old wager in Louisiana.

Casinos and Poker Games

There are a bewildering array of options in the Bayou State as regards casino gambling, including some very fine riverboat establishments, and some land-based ventures.

Harrah’s New Orleans features over 1,800 slot machines, as well as a mammoth 100 table games running through the night. They offer “high-tech” electronic betting on live dealer roulette tables, several varieties of baccarat and poker, as well as pai gow. There are 20 dedicated poker tables, running No Limit, Omaha and Stud as well as poker tournaments on a weekly schedule.

L’Auberge Casino Resort is a fully fledged and very swanky presence in the state, looking somewhat like a castle from the outside. They run almost as many slots as Harrah’s, and over 70 table games, as well as providing golf facilities, a spa and much else besides. Their poker room is all of 2,100 square feet, and boasts tableside food service and in-chair massages. Tournaments run several times a week, and there is a monthly $550 entry on a Saturday. The card room also provides a special incentive of cash back for hours played, offering $200 for 125 hours logged at the tables.

Boomtown Casino on the Gulf Coast offers a more intimate atmosphere, the riverboat casino / hotel only provides 200 exclusive guest rooms. A more intimate venue means more attention to each client, with a reputation of very high caliber customer service. Table games include blackjack, craps and roulette.

With so many venues on offer you might want to consult one of several guides to the state’s action.

If you’re a poker player, we have just what you need. The Cardplayer Louisiana page offers a full breakdown of the tournaments on offer across the state’s casinos, and Poker On Earth provide a very detailed guide to all the poker action, including specifying which venues offer Sit and Go games, which run cash games, and which tournaments, listing twelve resorts in all.

For a more general and very detailed guide to all the casino action, you might want to revisit Louisiana Travel [5], who provided the very helpful guide to horseracing given above. The 500 nations site [6] also provides a full listing.
If you’re still keen to know more about the poker games running, several people have taken it upon themselves to do road trips across the state, taking in as much poker action as possible.

Recent Developments

For all that Louisiana is fairly teeming with casinos already, there are moves being made to kick start yet another one. The Golden Nugget chain plans to create their fifth US casino in the state. Predicted to cost around $600 million to build, it promises a Vegas type experience complete with a marina, numerous restaurants and a huge gaming floor. Read more about the new venture in this ReviewJournal.com report [7].

Busts and Arrests

Many of the busts in Louisiana concerning gambling revolve around online activity, specifically arrests of those attempting to run online gambling services.

A man from Bossier City was recently sentenced to three years of probation and a $50,000 fine after operating an illegal sports gambling website. The man pleaded guilty to the felony offence in a federal case. He was caught when he took bets from an undercover FBI agent, according to the FBI website [8].

Earlier arrests of a similar nature from back in 2006. In that same year, some major international incidents were provoked by Louisiana’s attempts to prosecute a British Executive for offences relating to allowing residents of the state to wager on a gambling website. The man in question was arrested in New York, as detailed in this post by Global Ethics [9]. Of course this event gained attention in the UK, with the prominent British newspaper The Guardian running this story on the affair [10].

This issue is far too weighty to give it comprehensive treatment here, but the same state law has affected local figures as well, with the notorious Betcha.com scandal running over several years, and for those of you who’d like a little more information on that specific story, you can find a rather sad but very informative post by the man himself, Nick Jenkins, on his blog here [11].

Summary

In summary, first off, don’t try to run any online betting or betting-related service from within, or facing clients in Louisiana. History has shown that this will not only be received very badly, but in all likelihood lead to serious criminal charges. Online gambling of any kind within the state is also a major no-no at this time.

Now, if you’re looking for a gamble in the Bayou State, you’re in luck. There are wagering options aplenty. Take your pick from the state lottery, numerous horseracing tracks, home poker games, charity bingo, keno and raffles, or of course just head on over to one of the state’s many, many casinos.

As far as the casinos go, you have choices to make (see the guides above for help with that!), between tribal casinos, some major land-based resorts and a veritable flotilla of riverboat casinos. Just remember to play within your means, and take some time out to soak up the sights and sounds of this mixing pot of cultures that is the state of Louisiana.

Sources for this article

  1. Tulane.EDU: Gambling, Part Of Louisiana From The Begining Of The Region
  2. GamblingLawMasters.com: Louisiana
  3. LouisianaLottery.com: Corporate Site
  4. LouisianaTravel.com: Horse racing thrills await at tracks around Louisiana
  5. LouisianaTravel.com: Casinos across Louisiana welcome fun-seeking travelers
  6. 500Nations.com: Louisiana Casinos - Maps, Hotels, Photos, Websites, Poker,
  7. ReviewJournal.com: Fertitta creates Golden Nuggets
  8. FBI.Gov: Bossier City Man Sentenced for Running an Internet Gambling Operation
  9. GlobalEthics.org: British Internet Gambling Exec Arrested, Awaits Extradition to Louisiana
  10. TheGuardian.com: Sportingbet arrest threatens internet gambling
  11. JenkinsFamilyBlog.wp.com: The Final Death Throes of Betcha.com — and a Recap of “Justice,” Washington Style