Survey: La. OK with sports betting, pot possession

BATON ROUGE — Majorities of Louisiana residents support legalizing gambling on professional sports and possession of a small amount of marijuana for recreational use while opposing stricter gun laws, according to an LSU survey released Thursday.

The Legislature is expected this spring to consider legalizing sports gambling. Statewide, 59 percent of survey respondents support the idea while only 35 percent oppose it.

There is virtually no difference in opinions on the issue between Republicans and Democrats. The distinctions lie among the age groups.

More than 70 percent of respondents from ages 18 through 49 support sports betting. However, support drops to 53 percent among adults age 50 to 64 and to 38 percent of adults who are 65 or older.

“There are many different ways that sports betting can be undertaken,” Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards recently told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “We’re trying to figure out what works for Louisiana.”

Edwards, who is running for re-election, expressed concern that Louisiana casinos are losing money to ones in Mississippi, which already legalized sports betting. But The New York Times reported this week that casinos in Mississippi and several other states that legalized sports betting are not bringing in as much money as they had expected.

The strongest support for legalizing sports betting comes from the New Orleans area, with 68 percent of adults favoring it. Across south Louisiana, 58 percent supported the policy, while support slipped to 52 percent in north Louisiana.

The survey was conducted by the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. It was based on telephone interviews with 917 adults.

The survey also found that 55 percent of Louisianans support legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. As with sports betting, the differences are found among generations.