Gambling on the Bayou (Louisiana Gambling Laws)

Louisiana State Flag With a Casino Background

For as far back as the vast cypress swamps that provide the backdrop to Zydeco music, gambling on the bayou has been a way of life for generations of Louisiana residents.

Louisiana has some of the most exciting gambling laws in the entire United States. You may be planning your bayou vacation, but you need to know the laws for Louisiana gambling before you go.

History of Louisiana Gambling Laws

Louisiana offers one of the wealthiest and most vibrant histories of any state. To begin setting the stage for you, Louisiana had casinos being built before the first churches ever started appearing.

In my experience, Louisianans love to party. So, it won’t come as any surprise that the state has a long run in the gambling game. Both legal and otherwise.

Playing the lottery was incredibly popular in the early to mid-1800s, and Louisiana was no exception. Unfortunately, the lotteries were often subject to nefarious dealings and less than desirable characters.

This often led to good people being cheated out of their hard-earned money — money that was no doubt needed to provide food for the family.

Vintage Louisiana Horse Racing

So, in the late 1800s, the state followed suit with many other states and banned the lotteries altogether. It wasn’t until over a century later when the lotteries you and I are familiar with began to gain traction that the state lifted the curtain on lottery games.

Of course, the state-run games are much more on the up and up than earlier editions. Most of the incidents consisted of someone from out of town collecting the locals’ money and drawing for the big prize.

Some fellow out of towner would be the lucky winner and claim the prize more often than not. Must have been some coincidence, wink.

Horse racing has been another popular form of gambling in Louisiana for over 100 years. The practice began back in 1920 and remained the only form of legalized gambling for several decades.

Much like everything else, the laws surrounding horse racing have evolved into a more progressive style. They now stand opposed to the early days where the only form of legal bet you could make on the sport was parlayed.

Louisiana Lottos and Horse Racing Today

The lottery scene in Louisiana today is enormous. In addition to the state-run lottery with drawings multiple times a week, the state also participates in the significant multi-state games.

Powerball and Megamillions each offer Louisiana gamblers the chance to become multi-millionaires overnight.

The Louisiana Lottery also offers scratch-off tickets for real money. These games enable players to become instant winners if luck is on their side.

Louisiana currently has over 40 different scratch-off games in circulation. These games range from a simple $1 ticket all the way up to $10.

Depending on what state you’re in, a $10 ceiling may seem pretty low for a scratch-off ticket. However, your state likely doesn’t have casino gambling.

Harrah's Casino in Louisiana

You must be at least 21 years old to purchase lottery tickets in Louisiana. The state government decided to bump the age from 18 to 21 in 1998.

This change aligned the lottery’s ages to sync with all other forms of gambling in the state. So, to be clear, you must be at least 21 years old to gamble in Louisiana.

Live racing is also alive and thriving in Louisiana. Louisiana Downs is the premier horse racing venue in Louisiana.

Located in Bossier City, near Shreveport’s riverboat casinos, Louisiana Downs provides aggressive and electric on-track action from May thru September.

Suppose you are a big fan of horse racing. In that case, Louisiana Downs is a must-see during the spring when the weather is comfortable. The young horses are itching to get out of the gate on all cylinders.

Online Gambling

Real money online gambling has broken from the pack as one of the top methods for gamblers to get in on the action.

After all, the convenience factor alone is stunning. You can literally play any game you may find in the casino from the comfort of your warm bed.

Imagine yourself laying all of the sports bets you could possibly play without so much as putting on your slippers.

Online casinos have made gambling on sports or casino games easier than checking the mail—what a time to be alive.

Or, as my friend would say, “The future is now.”

That is unless you live in Louisiana.

Megaways Online Slots Game

While many states view online gambling as somewhat of a gray area, Louisiana strictly and definitively prohibits online gambling of any sort.

Gamblers, in many states, use online casinos as an alternative to flying to Las Vegas.

Usually, the law enforcement in their area is more concerned with stopping the casinos from operating than the gamblers from playing.

However, this is far from the case in Louisiana. The first offense can cost up to $500 in fines and another six months in jail.

A second offense bumps the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. The fines double, and you could face nine months in prison.

Of course, just the threat of a felony charge is more than adequate to keep many would-be internet gambling moguls heading to brick and mortar casinos in the state.

Now that I’ve scared you straight, I want to point out another equally important bit of information.

Not a single person has ever seen prosecution for participating in online gambling in the state of Louisiana. Maybe the fine people of Louisiana are just such pillars of the community that they follow the letter of the law to a “T.”

Social Gambling

I’m a huge proponent of social gambling for one straightforward reason. That reason is that I don’t believe it’sit’s the role of the government or anybody else to tell you what to do in your own home.

Louisiana gets this right.

Gambling in your home or other private property is covered under the law in Louisiana. Whether you’re hosting a poker night with your buddies or simply have several wagers happening surrounding a Saints game, you’re free to do so.

Mostly. The laws do put a few stipulations on the ancillary “hows,” but for the most part, you are okay to do so.

It may become a problem if the host is charging any kind of cover charge, is making a profit from the event itself, sells food to the guests, or begins handling money.

Avoid these no-nos, and you’re free and clear. Of course, if you are busted for stepping out of line, the chances are that you won’t be prosecuted.

Casino Gambling

Did you know that Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. where casino gambling is legal statewide?

That’s right. Even the juggernaut of the east, Atlantic City, is an outlier for much of New Jersey.

The riverboat casinos of Louisiana are by far the largest and most recognizable of the state’s casino industry.

These holdovers from a slower time when people in business would travel up and down the Muddy Mississippi operate under strict parameters.

Sam's Town Casino in Shreveport

Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino in Shreveport are among the largest of these riverboat casinos. The busy gambling hub is more of a barge than a boat.

However, the laws dictate that any riverboat casino in operation must have a functioning means of propulsion. So, the paddle wheel’s added feature on the backs of these monstrosities is of absolutely no use whatsoever.

They are, in fact, very serviceable, though.

Lake Charles is another area in the state with a large casino presence. A short three hour drive south of Shreveport, the Lake Charles casinos make it far more convenient for gamblers to cross state lines from Texas.

Shreveport draws enormous numbers from the DFW Metroplex. Lake Charles is doing the same for hungry casino sharps from Austin and Houston.

In fact, from Houston, gamblers can leave work at 5 p.m. and be in the casino by 7 p.m. That’s driving the speed limit, lead foots could be there even sooner.


Where the Louisiana gambling laws will go in the future is hard to say. The state has basically given the people a free rein when it comes to gambling on the bayou.

Possibly the most significant opportunities for advancement would be in the area of online gambling. But, if you’re playing blackjack on your sofa, it’s not really gambling on the bayou.