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June 24, 2021

The proposal calls for up to 12 “destination resort” casinos

Lawmakers push casino legislation in Texas

(US).- Some Texas lawmakers are trying again to establish Las Vegas-style casinos in Texas, and they say now is the time to do it because the state needs the money. Senators Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, and John Carona, a Dallas Republican, unveiled their casino legislation this week. Both senators unveiled their casino legislation and said that Texans are gambling, but they’re going to out-of-state casinos to do it.

T

hey said the state of Texas should get a take of that action through casinos’ tax revenue and jobs.

"Texans are already gaming. They’re going to continue to do so. I say let’s regulate it and let’s tax it and let’s use the money to pay for public schools and highways and other needy programs in the great state of Texas," Ellis said. He noted that the state has a lottery and pari-mutuel wagering at horse and dog tracks. He said Texans gamble via the Internet and on eight-liner machines.

The proposal calls for up to 12 "destination resort" casinos, meaning they would be major real estate developments that would include retail and other entertainment, Carona said. At least one casino could open in Galveston, which is struggling to revive its economy after Hurricane Ike. The measure also would allow slot machines at existing horse and dog race tracks and casino gambling on Texas Indian reservations.

The two senators pushed a similar bill last time, but it failed. Baptists and social conservatives who oppose gambling are vowing to fight the proposal again. And some out-of-state casino interests aren’t excited about seeing competing gambling operations getting going in Texas, especially with the slumping economy. There’s also a rift developing between casino and race track interests.

Though House Speaker Joe Straus, whose family has interests in horse racing, has said he’ll stay out of gambling legislation, two of his close allies -House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, a Waxahachie Republican, and Rep. Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat - are backing the casino bill.

Republican Governor Rick Perry has said he doesn’t want to expand the "footprint" of gambling in the state, but he has stopped short of saying he would veto any gambling legislation. The governor can allow legislation to become law without his signature, and proposed constitutional amendments go straight to Texas voters, not the governor’s desk.

Casino proponents say they would produce us$ 3 billion to us$ 4.5 billion per year in state and local tax money, with us$ 1 billion of that constitutionally dedicated to paying for college tuition and us$ 1 billion for highway construction. They contend the casinos would directly create as many as 118,000 new jobs and thousands more supporting jobs and bring us$ 14 billion to us$ 19 billion in economic activity from tourism each year.

Though some casinos in other states are seeing a downturn during the recession, Ellis, Carona and Menendez said at a news conference that doesn’t mean Texas should stay away from the casino industry. They said it takes time to develop casinos and that legislation passed this session would allow the gambling businesses to open a couple of years from now.

Tommy Azopardi, executive director for Texans for Economic Development, which favors allowing slot machines at race tracks and contends they would generate about us$ 1 billion per year for the state, said it doesn’t oppose legalization of casinos as long as race tracks get "full parity."

"Anything less will cause more harm to a horse industry that is already at a competitive disadvantage to our surrounding states," Azopardi said in a prepared statement. He said the casino legislation filed Tuesday would create a disparate tax rate between casinos and tracks and would not allow the tracks to have the same games as casinos.

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