The History of Gambling in Louisiana

The state of Louisiana has adopted many cultures from the early interaction with the French and the Spanish. New Orleans is the most notable city in the state, and before the completion of the first church of St. Louis Cathedral, the residents enjoyed the comfort of billiard halls and cabarets where they would engage in various gambling activities.

The existence of Louisiana as part of the United States is based on a gamble. The state was acquired through the Louisiana Purchase made by the U.S on April 30, 1803, as part of the land purchase by the Jefferson administration from the French.

Louisiana Gambling Age

The gambling age limit in LA varies depending on the wagering subset you participate in. Louisiana legal code prohibits various forms of gambling and places an age limit on legal gambling. Online gambling is completely illegal in this state, with harsh laws punishing those who practice online gambling.

The age limit for all gambling activities in LA is 21 years, with the exception of bingo, where 18 years is the age limit. For more information about the age limit, look at the guide to Louisiana gambling age at

18th century

Real money gambling in Louisiana has a rich history that dates back to 1753, when the government of the day operated a lottery. This was 26 years before the ratification of the United States constitution by Congress. By the beginning of the 19th century, Louisiana had the highest number of casinos in comparison to other states.

19th century

The government of the day soon got bothered by the soaring corruption and gambling, which led to the outlawing of casinos in 1813. Following the ban of casinos in the state, all operators, with the exception of those operating in New Orleans, closed down their casinos. New Orleans became the center of gambling till 1866, when the state government outlawed all casino gambling.

In 1866, the government held the first state-run lottery, which coincided with the outlawing of casino gambling. State lottery became a big hit in the state, and it was operated by a private company that paid the state $40,000 in proceeds.

Out-of-state residents were allowed to purchase Louisiana Lottery tickets via mail. This operation saw the rise of Louisiana as the monopoly of lotteries within the U.S. It was legal for non-residents to participate in the LA lottery, but this was later declared illegal by Congress in 1890. The state later closed down the program in 1893.

The 20th century

In 1923, horse racing was legalized in LA, and the state became the destination for horse racing events. New Orleans Fairgrounds was the first horse racing track for betting. At the time, horse race betting was the only legally regulated form of gambling in LA.

The Louisiana state lottery was reintroduced in 1993, but it would soon become a hub for corruption, or what history calls the LA Lottery Scandal. The state government legalized casino gambling again, during the same year 1993, and 15 licenses were awarded to offshore/riverboat casinos.

The rationale behind confining casinos to riverboats was that casinos would have a negative influence if allowed on mainland LA. The riverboat casino model was also a ploy to limit gamblers’ time to 2 hours, which is the length of a riverboat cruise.

21st Century

Two out of the 15 licenses issued were allowed to operate on land. One was opened in downtown New Orleans and the other one in Harrah. The latter was subjected to a state requirement to hire 2,400 employees from LA’s local economy.

Initially, the casinos were not permitted to operate hotels based on the legislature’s reasoning that this would have an influence on the surrounding communities. Today, LA has about 60 land and riverboat-based casinos. Under the provisions of the Indian Regulatory Act, four native tribes operate six casinos, and New Orleans has five casinos making it the highest per capita for casinos in the state.

The illegalization of Online Gambling in LA

Following the reintroduction of the LA lottery and legalization of casino gambling, offshore casino operators printed billions from online casinos between 1995 and 2006. The boom years of online gambling were favored by lack of enforceable and clear federal legislation and the love of gambling among U.S citizens, which was growing exponentially.

Louisiana was the first state to illegalize online gambling during this period, but the prohibition had little impact until the 2006 federal legislation that made it illegal for credit card companies to accept illegal online gambling transaction payments.

The Wire Act declared it a crime to accept any payment intended to support betting or wagering via a computer. While proponents of the Act claim that it was aimed at prohibiting all forms of online gambling, the Fifth Circuit court held that the Act was not intended to prohibit all forms of online gambling but only those done via a computer.

Due to lack of clarity with the Wire Act, Louisiana passed its laws, La. Rev. Stat. § 14:90.3 (1997), which took effect on August 15, 1997, outlawing gambling by computer. The statute applies to casino operators, casino website developers, and anyone else who aids any form of gambling by computer. The state’s legislature, when enacting the statute, stated that its interest was to protect residents and their children from the harm of online gambling as well as protecting people with compulsive gambling behavior.


Gambling is LA has a rich history, having begun in the 18th century and evolved over time to what the LA gambling industry is today. Gambling is a multi-billion industry flooded with committed gamblers and operators. However, the Louisiana gambling industry had attracted all sorts of corruption, which motivated the legislature to enact laws regulating the wagering space.

Gamblers are still debating on the trajectory online gambling in LA will take. Will it follow the same path as land casinos and lottery by shifting from prohibition to legalization? Current trends and the state’s gambling history indicate that online casinos might get legalized eventually.