Louisiana could soon legalized sports gambling if the state’s governor has his way. Governor John Bel Edwards has publicly given his support for the activity, adding that revenue from sports wagers would be tagged for use in boosting early childhood education.
In speaking at a meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club, Edwards stated, “I want to be in a position to actually do [sports gambling] in Louisiana because we know it is happening in Mississippi.” He asserted that allowing the sports gambling industry to flourish at the state’s casinos would make them competitive “so that the rest of their gaming isn’t diminished by the fact that patrons skip our casinos in order to go, for example, to Mississippi.”
Mississippi neighbors Louisiana, giving residents in the latter state a close option to fulfill their sports gambling fix. Mississippi introduced sports gambling last August, becoming one of the first seven states to approve the activity after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Professional and Amateur Sports Act (PASPA) in May of last year. Another Louisiana neighbor, Arkansas, saw its residents approve sports gambling in last November’s elections.
If Louisiana state lawmakers approve sports wagers, it still might take some time before the activity is introduced. Once those legislators sign off on any bill, Edwards would have to give the green light and then each parish in the state would be given the right to determine, most likely through a vote, if the activity should be allowed in their districts.
Edwards said that during the press gathering that he would like to see all revenue from sports gambling go to early childhood education. He feels that this is fundamental in helping to reduce performance gaps that are seen between wealthy and poor students and between Caucasians and people of color. He added, “We have way more than our fair share of students who show up and are not ready to learn and we don’t catch them up. If we are serious about education in Louisiana, this is just something we are going to have to do.”
Despite his wishes, not everyone wants to see all of the money go to education. The chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, Ronnie Jones, wants to allocate a portion of the proceeds to fight gambling addiction in the state.
Louisiana lawmakers are currently conducting a sports betting study to better understand the industry. Any bills on the matter won’t be introduced until after that study is complete, meaning that Louisiana residents might not see any real progress on the subject until next year.