New Orleans City Council Reverses 17-Year Ban on Sports Betting at Fair Grounds

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Logo With Horses Racing Underneath
New Orleans’ City Council on Thursday approved the conduct of legal sports betting at the the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots.

The decision ends a 17-year ban on sports betting there and brings the track in line with the other Louisiana casinos. It can be recalled that in 2005, the city council allowed Fair Grounds to offer slot machines aside from bets on horse racing at the Gentilly track. However, the approval came with conditions and among those was a prohibition on taking wagers of sporting events other than horse racing. Per Provision 3 of the 2005 ordinance: ” There shall be no wagering on telecasts of sporting events the than horse racing.”

Louisiana Legalizes Sports Betting

At the time of the ban, sports betting was not yet legal in the state. But after the U.S. Supreme Court voided the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, Louisiana was among the states that sought to legalize sports wagering in its jurisdiction.

State Sen. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, introduced Senate Bill 135 on February 25, 2020. The bill was approved by the Senate on May 13th of the same year by a vote of 29-8. Just four days later, the House of Representatives also approved the bill 71-23

After Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill into a law on June 12, 2020, it was sent to the ballot in November where more than three-fourths of New Orleans voters voted “yes” on the ballot measure to make New Orleans one of the 55 Louisiana parishes to legalize sports betting.

Recommendation of the City Planning Commission

By virtue of that sports betting law, Fair Grounds owners Churchill Downs Inc. asked the city to amend the 2005 ordinance so it could allow sports betting at its premises. The request was unanimously approved by the City Planning Commission and recommended to the city council last January.

The request of Fair Grounds did not encounter objections while under hearing with the City Planning Commission. Additionally, hree neighborhood associations — the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association and the DeSaix Area Neighborhood Association — submitted letters of support to the City Planning Commission’s recommendation of allowing sports waging at the race track.

Fair Grounds’ plans include a 1,500 square foot lounge that will be dedicated to sports betting. A portion of the Fair Grounds main building will be renovated to accommodate the lounge. They are also planning to place three self-service betting kiosks at the area where its 700 slot machines are located.