Gray Pou is a 34-year-old Account Manager for an advertising agency in Shreveport, Louisiana. Naturally, he is a follower of LSU basketball, but was only a casual college basketball fan. And prior to 28 January 2022, he described himself as a “non-existent” follower of the NBA.
These days, Pou is watching five or six basketball games a week and tuning into Pac-12 games on Saturday nights. That’s because he is one of many enthusiastic sports bettors who were let through the gate when mobile sports betting finally launched in Louisiana earlier this year.
“We were very excited to have legalised sports betting in Louisiana,” Pou said. “Everyone that I know, friends, family members, wives of friends, are participating.”
Unleashing mobile sports betting in the state
DraftKings Director of Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello says sports betting is not new to the people of Louisiana.
“They’ve been gambling for a long time, whether it be with the local bookie or offshore, certainly on horseracing at Louisiana Downs and the Fair Grounds,” he said. Avello noted that DraftKings opened a sportsbook at the Golden Nugget Casino in Lake Charles in November.
“That was very successful, so we knew from just that one location that when we did the digital aspect of it, it would take off.”
Pou also said people in Louisiana were already gambling regardless of its legality. Now that it has been legalised, a long wait to bet on sports through his mobile device is over.
“I did not anticipate being a guy that bets on college basketball or the NBA,” Pou said. “I’m doing it in a responsible way, but I also find myself watching more sports now.”
Impressive early returns
Published reports indicate strong early results since the launch of legalised sports betting in Louisiana. Residents of the state wagered nearly $40.5m during the first four days of operation, which was the best four-day opening for any market per capita.
Even though the NFL season is over, Avello said he is anticipating more healthy momentum ahead.
“I’ll tell you what I think will do well for the next four months or so: the NCAA conference tournaments,” he said. “I expect good action there, which leads into the NCAA tournament.
"NBA action has been robust down there. The NHL is maybe not as strong but there are other forms of sporting events you can bet on that will be very popula such as golf, not only the weekly tournaments but the Masters.”
The American Gaming Association said the state will make about $50m per year from sports betting, according to WAFB TV. The reported tax rate for mobile and online betting in Louisiana is 15%. Portions of the revenue will go to early childhood education and disability affairs, as indicated by Louisiana Sharp.
“Our state has a history of some economic troubles,” Pou said. “Of course, we’ve been wanting sports wagering as bettors, but we also know the tax money will be going towards our roads, our schools and there are a lot of things that need improvement in this wonderful state.”
The Hometown Feel
According to DraftKings, since mobile sports betting launched in Louisiana, the Cincinnati Bengals have been the team to draw the most bets; and Joe Burrow has been the athlete to have drawn the most bets.
Yet as Avello pointed out, it was another LSU alum who made a significant sports betting splash for Super Bowl 56.
“One bet that stands out was Odell Beckham Jr. to score the first TD at 9-1,” Avello said. “There was some good value there. He unfortunately went out early, but they certainly cashed on that first score.”
Avello says there has been strong action on local teams such as the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. DraftKings reported that the LSU Tigers baseball team has drawn the second-most wagers of any team on its sportsbook since launch in Louisiana. The Ole Miss-LSU basketball matchup on 1 February 2022 was the highest non-NFL game in terms of bets since launch.
"When we look at what Louisianans are betting on, a lot of that is the teams within the state,” he said. “Not all states do that.”
However, Avello also said that many Louisiana sports bettors don’t focus exclusively on the home teams or local ties.
The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks are ahead of the Pelicans, as those two NBA teams have produced the most professional basketball bets since launch. Jordan Spieth has drawn the second-most wagers of any athlete. Moscow Liga Pro table tennis has been a top-five sport in the state.
“Some people have a different way of handicapping and looking at the games,” Avello said.
“It’s not like everybody from the state was rooting on the side of players who have played there in the past.”