Legal Poker & Betting in the State of Louisiana

Is Online Gambling & Poker Legal in the State Of Louisiana?

Louisiana has a fascinating history which is indelibly intertwined with gambling right from the days of the first French and then Spanish settlers. Crack-downs on gambling have been periodically appearing for more than 200 years, and only ever saw gambling move underground. Nowadays, there are plenty of regulated options for residents, including casino, poker, horse racing and video-poker games. At the same time, this State explicitly criminalize online gambling – and have shown they are willing to legally pursue companies who break their laws. This page explains the Louisiana gambling laws in detail.

First up below, you will see a brief history of gambling in the Bayou State. After that the individual games are covered, outlining the current legal situation of each. Next things get more detailed, with the important excerpts from the laws and a timeline of the key legal changes. After that you will find a summary and look at possible scenarios for the future.


Louisiana Gambling Laws – A Brief History

Few States have as rich a history as Louisiana, and few can lay claim to casinos (well, entertainment establishments that included gambling) being built on their territory before the first Churches. The early history is one of crackdowns, and then regulation followed by crackdown again. With so much gambling going on, the crackdowns only ever pushed this underground – Louisianans have always loved gambling, whether legal or not!

One of the interesting chapters in the gambling history of Louisiana is the Lotteries. Which spread throughout the Southern States from the 1860’s onward. These had their own corruption, legal battles and colorful characters. Many States ended up passing laws to ban them to protect their citizens from shady deals before they were finally outlawed in Louisiana itself at the end of the 1800’s. It would be almost 100 years before a better regulated official State lottery was launched.

For many years the only legal form of gambling was pari-mutuel (pooled) betting on horse races at fairs. This became legal in the 1920’s and has today grown into a huge industry, with popular ‘Racinos’ also offering slots games.

There is a huge choice of casinos in this State, and despite the long history of gambling – these are relatively recent. In 1991, permission for 15 riverboat casinos was given. This was quickly followed by land-based casinos and a few years later by Tribal casinos. There are some lavish properties and some big poker rooms among them. Social poker is tolerated, though not specifically legal under the legal code. The key factor here has been that no individual is making a profit from hosting the game or taking a rake from the pots.

Louisiana does not fit the model of a State willing to regulate online gambling – they have an amendment to their books specifically banning betting on the Internet. However they are looking into this area, and a commission set up to investigate is due to report in 2014.


What Forms of Gambling Are Currently Legal?

Casino Games: Yes, there are 4 major land based casinos, tribal casinos and riverboat casinos. There are also plans for more. Louisiana has a rich history of casino gaming and offers a fantastic choice to residents. Video poker machines in bars are also legal.

Online Casinos: No, This is one of the few States to explicitly criminalize online gambling – with severe penalties including imprisonment for operators of this game and stiff fines for players.

Live Poker: Yes, there are many poker rooms inside the licensed casinos. Home games are tolerated in Louisiana. While there is no explicit ‘social gambling’ carve-out within the Statutes like in other States – the rule seems to be that low stakes games where nobody takes a profit from running or hosting the games are fine.

Online Poker: No, there is an indication that this area is being examined from 2013, though poker is covered by the same anti online gambling law as casino games.

Sports Betting: Pari-mutuel betting is allowed at racetracks, you can also bet on billiards games – which are considered a game of skill.

Lottery Betting: Yes, like in many States, there is a State lottery and also multi-state games.

Bingo Games: Yes, charity gambling is legal and includes bingo, raffles and keno games.


Louisiana Gambling Laws – Timeline and Key Statutes

In addition to their broad ‘game of chance’ definition of gambling, Louisiana is unusual in that poker is specifically singled out as a gambling game (draw poker to be specific) and gambling over the internet is specifically banned. While there are reasonably harsh penalties for the organizers of gambling games – players are rarely targeted under Louisiana Statutes. There are a lot of opportunities to gamble in this State – what the code is saying is that if anyone steps outside of these licensed regulations, they can expect severe punishments. Also unlike other States, Louisiana has shown that they are more than willing to go after organizations they consider to be violating their codes – including big international companies.

Here is the main definition of what constitutes gambling from the current Statutes:

“Gambling 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“ (CH14-90-1)

This part covers gambling on computers and the Internet:

“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… “ (CH14-90-3)

Here are some key dates from the long and fascinating history of gambling LA.

1753: First government run casino opened by Governor Louis Billouart de Kerrlerec. This was an acknowledgement that outlawing gambling had failed over previous decades.

1812: New Orleans, Louisiana Exempted from Federal ban on gambling

1866: Louisiana State Lottery created. This would create a huge regional (multi-State) lottery boom which saw corruption and many legal battles. The heyday of the Lottery ran until 1895, when Governor Murphy Foster was able to close it down. It would be almost 100 years before the lottery returned.

1920’s: The only legal form of gambling was pari-mutuel betting on Horse racing at fairgrounds.

1991: This was a breakthrough year in the history of Louisiana gambling laws. A new State lottery became legal. This year also saw the approval of 15 riverboat casinos, and video poker machines. After some debate the approval for the first land-based casino was approved.

1993: Three Native American tribes negotiated compacts with the State to open casinos on their lands.

1997: Slot machines permitted at racetracks. This year also saw laws covering ‘gambling by computer’ added to the Statutes.

2013: Committee to look into the possibility of internet gambling established, there is no report available as of Spring 2014.


Louisiana Gambling Laws – Summary and Look to the Future

Apart from their ban on internet gambling, Louisiana has been both progressive and pragmatic in their approach to licensing the different games. Aware that prohibition just pushed games underground, their licensing efforts have created a thriving and well controlled industry which generates significant revenue for the State each year.

The big question is – will this practical approach also extend to the regulation of online gambling, and specifically poker games? There is wording specifically against using the Internet on the books. However, I would not personally bet against the practical approach winning through – and Louisiana regulating online poker at some point over the next few years.


Useful  Resources:

Nice History Site

Louisiana Gaming Control – laws

Gaming Enforcement Division

Gambling Law US Summary

Gambling Law Masters Summary