Louisiana News

Louisiana legislators approve fantasy sports tax; House members advance COVID-19 legal protections

(The Center Square) – The saga to legalize playing online fantasy sports for money in Louisiana likely neared its end Tuesday, as the state Senate sent a bill establishing the tax rates to the governor’s desk.

In 2018, voters in most parishes legalized playing online fantasy sports in their areas. But lawmakers failed to establish the tax rates last year and could not do so in this year’s non-fiscal regular session, which is why the matter was added to the agenda for this month’s special session.

Fantasy sports players create virtual teams with real athletes. Winners are determined by a points system tied to individual athletes’ performances, not by the outcome of real-world sporting events. Currently, playing fantasy sports is legal in Louisiana only if no money changes hands.

House Bill 64 sets an 8 percent state tax rate on online fantasy sports’ net revenue. The money would be dedicated to early childhood education, though a large windfall is not expected. New state revenue might be less than $400,000 annually, according to a fiscal office estimate.

Also on Tuesday, the state House of Representatives sent the Senate a bill that seeks to protect schools and school districts from lawsuits by teachers, students or students’ families alleging disease infection unless the plaintiff can prove gross negligence or “wanton or reckless misconduct,” a higher standard than in most civil cases. House Bill 59 protects public and private schools, including colleges and universities.

Republican Rep. Buddy Mincey, a former Livingston Parish school board member, said he brought the bill at the urging of the state school board association. Though it’s mainly a response to COVID-19 and applies retroactively to the start of the pandemic, it would apply to any future infectious disease outbreak.

Several members said teachers in their districts objected to the bill, fearing it would weaken their protections when they are required to go back to campus. Democratic Rep. Gary Carter said the change favors the interests of schools and school boards over those of students.

But supporters said they didn’t want the fear of lawsuits and high insurance costs to be deciding factors in whether officials reopen a campus, adding that it would not jeopardize teachers’ rights under workers compensation insurance. Lawmakers already have approved similar protections for businesses and government agencies.

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