Sen. Danny Martiny talks failure of sports betting bills to win final legislative approval

Published: Jun. 7, 2019 at 7:30 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - People hoping to place sports bets at Louisiana casinos on college and professional sports, as well as engage in online fantasy sports betting are out of luck.

On the final day of the legislative session session, bills related to both failed to win final approval, and the state senator who pushed for legalization of sports betting said he was not treated fairly by some House members during the process.

Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said sports betting would help fund critical education programs.

"My two goals were number one to give the casinos an even playing field with the Mississippi and the Arkansas casinos and also to afford a funding stream for early childhood education,” Martiny said.

Martiny talked about the frenzied final moments of the session in the Senate where a bill to regulate fantasy sports betting was up for consideration.

Earlier during the legislative process, the Senate approved Martiny’s sports betting bill which called for voters statewide to weigh in on the issue. But the House did not go along, saying Martiny’s bill was an expansion of gaming in Louisiana.

So, in the remaining days of the session, Martiny succeeded in having the Senate attach his bill to the fantasy sports legislation sponsored by Rep. Kirk Talbot, who is from Jefferson Parish like Martiny.

And the “hitchhiker” legislative move led to a conference committee getting involved.

Martiny was not satisfied with the outcome of the panel of lawmakers.

"Once they bottled my bill up and they got to the point of the conference committee process I went over to the those people and I said, ‘I tell you what I will do, we won’t give the authority to the casinos or the land-based [casinos] or the racetrack, all I want you to do is recognize sports betting as an allowable form of gaming and let us have a referendum,’ and the response from the House conferees was we’re not putting anything in the bill that will in anyway help sports betting,” Martiny said a day after the session wrapped up.

He said after getting that response he decided against going along with the conference committee report.

“So, I said, ‘Good, I’m not signing the report.’ I don’t like the way I was treated and that’s not how the process should work,” Martiny stated.

Voters in 47 parishes voted last year in favor of allowing fantasy sports in their communities. And advocates for that form of gaming are miffed over the lack of legislative action on regulations which are necessary before the gaming can begin in the state.

"As a fan, I’m certainly supportive of sports betting. At the end of the day it didn’t have the votes. So, then to have it hijack the fantasy sports bill which had passed the voters already in November certainly felt like a way to just kill the bill,” said Ryan Berni, of Fairness for Fantasy Sports Louisiana.

Time ran out on the session as the fantasy sports legislation faced a Senate vote.

Martiny was asked if he filibustered to keep the vote from happening.

“I don't know, I spoke for a minute and 20 seconds, no. Here's the point, we were running up against the clock, but I knew what was going to happen. I was going to be the villain anyway, so I said I'm going to go up there and explain, never once did I ever ask anybody to vote against the bill,” said Martiny.

Berni said legislators failed voters. "Ultimately, they just didn't uphold the will of the voters, and so I think people have to be angry,” he said.

And Berni thinks litigation could be an option for some.

"It was unfortunate that there was a provision in there that tied the two bills together. So, I think people are going to be looking at every kind of scenario,” he said.

As for Martiny, he is proud of the stance he took during his final session as a state legislator.

"I walked out there with my head up, voting what I believed in as I have done for 25 years,” said Martiny.

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