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Texas Considering Gambling Expansion

25 January 2011 by admin

texas_gamblingTexas is the most recent state in the U.S. to gain attention for considering gambling expansion. Though the movement doesn’t have nearly the traction as what you’ll find in the likes of California, Florida and New Jersey, there is a definite push to legalize some gambling to add to the state’s revenue.

As one of the most conservative states in the Union, gambling expansion legislation has always been an uphill battle in the Lone Star State. However, two things are working in the favor of gambling proponents right now. First, in much of the country, including Texas, a more Libertarian approach to conservatism has taken over the Republican Party. Just as the Tea Party movement is rebelling against big government policies of Democrats, they are also rebelling against the big government policies of Republicans. What that means is that while socially conservative voters in Texas may be against the principle of gambling, they may decide that it’s not the government’s place to tell people how they can spend their money.

The second thing that is working in favor of gambling proponents is the budget deficit. Texas is usually one of the most fiscally responsible states in America, but like the other 49, they were hit hard by the recession. State lawmakers are now looking for ways to close a budget gap of more than $20 billion. In order to close the gap, lawmakers are looking to make a lot of cuts in spending, but some of those cuts, such as education, are not very popular. Adding revenue from casino gambling could help them avoid some of those tough cuts.

Senator Rodney Ellis plans to introduce a bill that would allow voters to choose whether to allow casinos, poker rooms and more. Doing so would require amending the state constitution, which requires a 2/3 vote from the legislature. The bill will be endorsed by the Texas Gaming Association, a lobbying group that wants to bring casinos to the state to avoid losing business to neighboring states that do allow gambling.

Aside from adding Vegas-style casinos to the state, there are also bills that would legalize poker and video lottery machines at racetracks. Allowing more gambling options at the racetracks is not popular with the groups that offer charity bingo, though. The Coalition for the Survival of Charitable Bingo is worried that allowing video lottery machines at racetracks would cause them to lose customers. They plan to petition the government to allow their bingo halls to install the machines if the racetracks are allowed.

Even the promise of using some of the gambling revenue for education is getting some backlash. Rob Kohler, a consultant for the Christian Life Commission, who opposes gambling, says that Texas created the state lottery by saying that “it was going to solve the education problems in this state and that hasn’t worked.” Many states created lotteries with the same promise and the results of most have been mixed at best.

Governor Rick Perry opposes gambling, but insiders say they believe he would not veto any bill passed by lawmakers on the issue. In the end, it will come down to whether 2/3 of the senators agree to let the voters decide whether they want casino gambling. As for the voters, they have traditionally rejected gambling, but given the current anti-authoritarian climate, they may decide to let each person decide for themselves whether it’s okay to play at a casino.

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