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Legislators in Louisiana have begun to take the legal steps of allowing parishes in the state to decide on whether they want legalized sports betting in their communities.
State Bill 153 was introduced by State Senator Danny Martiny for the second time this past week, as the bill failed to make it to Governor John Bel Edwards desk in 2018.
“Not only are we not making money off of sports betting, but the Mississippi and Native American casinos are trying to siphon off some of our gamblers to use their places,” Martiny told WAFB in February. “Everyone else was racing to compete, and we were sitting on the sidelines.”
Martiny believes that the state is missing a golden opportunity to use the tax revenue generated by sports betting to fund early childhood education.
Louisiana’s Early Childhood program costs the state around $86 million per year. Martiny believes that revenue from online and onsite sports gambling could bring in anywhere from $40 to $60 million in the first year.
Martiny’s bill has the support of the Louisiana Department of Education.
“Louisiana must find a way to provide the affordable, high-quality early childhood care and education that working families and their children need and deserve,” LDoE Press Secretary Sydni Dunn told KALB.com. “We will closely watch the upcoming legislative session, hopeful state leaders will act on this urgent issue.”
The bill has had trouble finding support with some legislators and the faith community worried about the effects passing sports gambling will have on bettors who suffer from addiction.
”It’s a bad bet for the state of Louisiana,” says Gene Mills from the Louisiana Family Forum. “It’s a bad bet for the families of Louisiana, and it’s bad for children. Gambling is only a product for losers.
“We tell people to play every day and get lucky every night. That’s not true, but no one has called (the casinos) on that (lie). There’s a depreciation of their promises in terms of what they bring to the communities and the impact upon families, upon individuals and businesses that the revenues do not nearly offset.”
Mills points to a 2016 study by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette that claimed over 280,000 residents of the state had gambling problems that needed to be treated with professional help.
What SB 153 has in its favor is that the state has already legalized casinos, horse betting and daily fantasy sports such as DraftKings and FanDuel inside the state.
The bill must be approved by the majority of parishes before the bill will become law.
Once legalized, the residents of each parish will get the opportunity to vote on whether they want to allow online and onsite sports betting within the parish.
In Sen. Martiny’s bill, that vote would come on October 12, 2019.
Once parishes determine who is in and who is out, then eligible casinos could begin applying for licenses. Fees from those licenses will go into the state’s general fund for use.
For Martiny, the time is now to approve the bill. “It’s happening right now,” Martiny said. “There are people that are betting on sports in Louisiana, whether they’re betting with a bookie or they’re betting offshore. They’re betting.”
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