- Early childhood education advocates in Louisiana see sports betting as a way to finance education programs for children from birth to kindergarten
- Discussions are taking place in the state about how money from sports betting could be used for early learning programs.
- Politicians seem to be onboard with the idea, which could help sports betting legislation move forward
Sports betting and early childhood education may soon go hand in hand in Louisiana. Advocates of early childhood education see sports betting as a way to provide financing for education programs before primary school begins. Children are in need of assistance from the time they are born to kindergarten. The sports betting industry would be an untapped source of revenues.
A new revenue source
Discussions have been going on ab0ut how sports betting could help early education programs. In 2018, legislation to legalize sports betting was introduced by Senator Danny Martiny. However, the bill did not move forward. Many feel that adding the education element will help legislation to move forward this year.
Chair of the Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council of Louisiana Paula Polito said: “For years now, we have been in the trenches looking for funds, begging for funds, hands and knees. We don’t have enough funds for our earliest learners. This is just another opportunity.”
Facing neighboring competition
The state is losing out on sports betting fund because residents are traveling to Mississippi to bet on sports. Already, eight states offer sports betting in the US and more are considering the option.
Senator Martiny plans on filing legislation again during the regular legislative session, which starts in April. The senator’s bill would allow existing gaming facilities to offer sports betting. This would include the racetracks, riverboat gaming venues, and land-based casinos.
The senator wants Louisiana to offer what its neighbor Mississippi offers so that the state can stay competitive. Any new legislation will face stiff opposition from conservative organizations and churches.
Those groups are worried about an increase in gambling in the state. However, if approved, it is believed that as much as $40m (€35.4m) to $70m (€61.9m) could be generated annually from the new industry.
Lawmakers have created an Early Childhood Care and Education Commission in Louisiana. Research has found that young children who have access to education at a young age are more productive in later years. Children exposed to quality programs usually do not require special education. Children with early access to education are also less likely to drop out before they graduate.
Because of the benefits, advocates want to see more programs provided for the younger children. Several years ago, the state started a pre-K program to assist at-risk kids. According to the commission, 90% of 4-year-olds in need can now attend programs. The commission would like to see the state provide a commitment for financing education programs for children from infancy to 3 years.
The commission has estimated that around $86m (€76.1m) would be needed annually within that time frame to pay for the programs for the next ten years. According to Senator Martiny, the subject of early childhood development should take precedence. He is going to support dedicating revenue from sports betting for the effort.
Despite his support, Martiny has not committed to introducing his proposal with early childhood education included. He is still unsure about whether that would assist or harm his chances of seeing a measure pass into law.
If a sports betting bill were to pass, money would not be provided right away. Individual parishes (counties) would have to decide at the fall election if they want to allow sports betting at their racetracks and casinos. Regulations would have to be created by the state’s Gaming Control Board, as well.