State gambling bill gains lawmaker support

04/08/2013 05:40 PM -By: LeAnn

The ongoing casino debate in Texas may once and for all lie in the hands of voters.Legislation is making its way through the capitol that would open up the gaming market across the state. The odds have been against similar legislation in the past, but the bill appears to have more support this time around.

Republican Senator John Carona says Texans spend $3 billion at casinos in neighboring states each year.

“Helping to pay for their roads, their schools, and their hospitals,” Sen. Carona said.

Pro-gaming supporters say it’s time to once and for all level the playing field.

“We’re hemorrhaging money to Oklahoma,” John T. Montford with Let Texans Decide said. “Not only do they recruit our best high school football players, they also snooker us each day by building their gaming empire on the back of Texans.”

If the bill passes, gaming licenses, according to the bill’s language, would be granted to a limited number of destination resort casinos, horse race tracks, and to American Indian tribes.

“It’ll bring jobs, tourism. It’ll bring conventions. It will be helpful to the state,” Bill Hammon, president of the Texas Association of Business, said. “Local property taxes will also be strongly affected so therefore schools, fire, police will be benefited on the local level.”

Moral issues have historically been part of the argument against gambling.

“As rural country Baptists, it has always been gambling is not part of the solution,” Jim Wyatt with Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce said.

But supporters say it’s now time for the solution to rest in the hands of voters.

“However, we recognize when we travel to Louisiana or Oklahoma, we see church vans in the parking lot so therefore it’s important we allow the decision to be made,” Wyatt said.

Moral issues aside, safety has also been a concern. To curtail that, a portion of the generated tax revenue would go to extra law enforcement, as well as to education to help with gambling addictions.

“Texans can decide this issue themselves and I believe its high time we give them that chance,” Sen. Carona said.

Supporters say they also hope this bill would clean-up a lot of the illegal gambling that’s happening across the state.

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