Pro and Con of Liberalized Gambling in Texas

Topics: Casino, Texas, Native American gambling enterprises Pages: 19 (7392 words) Published: February 23, 2011
Efforts are once again underway in the legislature to bring casino-style gambling to Texas. It’s an idea that has failed in recent legislative sessions, but backers are hoping they’ve found the right formula for success in 2009. There are many appealing arguments on the side of pro-gambling groups. Keeping gambling money that is now going to Louisiana and Oklahoma in Texas is one popular idea. Reviving the state’s horse-raising industry by allowing slot machines at racetracks is another. Some advocates want to help struggling Indian tribes develop their economies through gambling. Opponents generally cite moral grounds for their hostility to gambling legislation. There are, however, many fiscal arguments against gambling as well. Although gambling proponents always promise large tax revenues from gambling, a statewide survey shows that such promises are almost never fulfilled. For example, gambling proponents are currently claiming that introducing gambling to Texas can bring in $2 billion in tax revenue to the state. However, the entire State of Nevada only receives $1 billion in revenue each year. Another argument against gambling is the reduced power of the state to control gambling – particularly Indian gambling – proliferation once it is legalized (this will be discussed in Part III of our series). Many opponents also point to statistics which appear to show increases in unemployment, crime and the use of public welfare programs related to gambling. Ultimately, gambling is a complex – and risky – business, and while a libertarian, open approach may sound appealing to many Texans at first, a closer look at laws and little-known facts about gambling make it a very complicated issue that few Texans understand. The Background

Gambling in America was limited until 20 years ago to only a few locations, notably Los Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Spurred by the growth of Indian Gaming (see Part III of our series), gambling exploded in the last 20 years. Today, there are casinos in about 20 U.S. States. Federal Court rulings in the 1980s expanded gambling operations for Indian Tribes. As sovereign dependent nations, Indian Tribes are not bound by state law, only federal law. Beginning in California, tribes began to assert these powers by offering gambling. As a response, the federal government passed legislation restricting tribes’ abilities to gamble in each state. This law, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 is complex, but has a simple principle behind it: If a type of gambling is legal in the state, it is legal for Indian tribes. If it is not legal in the state, Indian tribes cannot gamble. This law is non-negotiable, and states which have attempted to bring in gambling on a limited basis have often found themselves getting more than they bargained for due to IGRA. With the passage of the Texas State Lottery in the early 1990s, Indian tribes in Texas began operating small casinos under the principle that the passage of the lottery triggered IGRA’s provisions allowing them to gamble. Then Attorney-General John Cornyn disagreed, and shut down the casinos, which the exception of a small operation of the Texas Kickapoo tribe, which conducts bingo. Since then, every attempt to bring gambling up in the Texas legislature has met defeat, although often by narrow margins. A 2007 bill that would have allowed limited Indian gaming was defeated by a tie vote, 66-66, in the Texas House of Representatives. Had it survived, several members of the Texas Senate would have likely filibustered the bill. The Texas Constitution officially bans gambling, so any outright casino gaming legislation would likely require a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate. However, legislators have been creative in finding work-arounds which they believe can implement some gambling without a 2/3 vote, hence the 2007 bill. Gambling Legislation Revived

This legislative session, there are a number of gambling bills up for consideration. Their...
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