Doubling Down: Texas and Casino Gambling

The Alabama-Coushatta want their casino back. The Texas horse tracks say betting on races isn’t enough. Both see expanded gambling in the state as their ticket to solvency.

A pair of Senate bills, however, have been proposed that would alleviate some of the pressure that's sending gamblers to Lake Charles and the Chickasaw Nation. The first, sponsored by Sen. John Carona, would allow the Alabama-Coushatta the tribal casino they once knew, so long as the federal language prohibiting it likewise changes. The second, filed by Sen. Juan Hinojosa, would also attempt to legalize VLTs at the state's 13 licensed racetracks.

As both measures seek to expand gambling, however, the Legislature wouldn't be the only group deciding on such growth. Any gaming extension would require constitutional approval, needing 100 House votes, 21 Senate votes and, as early as this fall, majority support from Texas ­voters.

True to its name, Let Texans Decide has published multiple surveys showing that upwards of 85 percent of Texans would prefer to vote on the matter. That's not to say that there's 85 percent support on expansion as such; rather, it means that Texans, who those on either side of the debate consistently assure us are the finest people in the nation, would prefer direct democracy instead of the small-r republicanism they currently enjoy.

The towns surrounding the Alabama-Coushatta reservation, including Livingston, were not immune to the 2002 decision closing the tribe's casino, which once employed more than 200people from the nearby area.
Daniel Kramer
The towns surrounding the Alabama-Coushatta reservation, including Livingston, were not immune to the 2002 decision closing the tribe's casino, which once employed more than 200people from the nearby area.

"Texans don't like to be told what they can or can't do with their money," Montford observes. "Texans are sophisticated, independent, freethinking folks. What's wrong with a vote of the people?"

Even then, it's not simply the license plates and improved infrastructure that gambling proponents cite as reasons for expansion. Illicit eight-liners still flourish in Texas, so there's support to legalize and regulate them. And the entire ban smacks of nanny-statism, flying in the face of Texans' purported independence. Banning gambling — like barring drugs and prohibiting prostitution — forces it underground, shovels it elsewhere. Nothing is stopped. Things are merely shuffled.

These attempts at legalization have been coming ever since the Texas Lottery was created in 1991. None have ever achieved a two-thirds majority in the legislature, and none have ever been put before the state's voters. And if such measures couldn't pass in 2011 — when Texas was facing one of its worst budget crunches in recent memory — there seems little impetus to pass anything in 2013 with the state flush and rolling.

But then, as Oklahoma and Louisiana continue to dredge Texans' pockets, the reality persists that the state has plans to reinstate only part of the $5.4 billion hacked from public education in 2011. Any talk of a tax hike blanches legislators and voters alike. Suddenly, gambling expansion looks more palatable than at any previous point.

"As I move around my district, more and more folks tell me to please support [gambling expansion]," says Democratic state Rep. Joe Farias. "This year has probably had more buzz about voting on a gambling bill...We're trying to find a funding mechanism for public education and for the other agencies that took a hit. And public education has been the big driver for it."
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The Alabama-Coushatta and the public-­education backers aren't the only factions pushing for gaming extension. For while the tribe and the schools will continue to exist, though with fewer resources, there's no guarantee that the world of Texas horse racing — and more generally, the state's equine industry — will endure in any recognizable form if it doesn't land the slots it seeks and soon.

It's no secret that horse racing in Texas has shed both business and prestige over the past decade. While there are few industries that carry more cultural import, few that are closer to the state's heart — what is a cowboy without his steed, anyway? — the same states stealing Texas's gambling dollars are also swiping the state's horse-racing monies. As Texas tracks are forced to make due with decreasing handles, breeders and owners and trainers have spent the past decade shipping their horses to parks that offer additional gaming, standing just beyond Texas's borders.

"I want to run in my hometown, to support Texas racing, but at the end of the day you have to do what's right for your business," says Bill Casner, an owner who worked with 2010 Kentucky Derby Winner Super Saver. "There's no incentive to have a Texas-bred horse now, because it's next to worthless, especially compared to Louisiana-bred, Oklahoma-bred, New Mexico-bred. They have no value."

Montford, originally from West Texas, noted that the most surprising aspect of his recent tours has been witnessing the depths of the drop-off in Texas horse breeding. "I'm from West Texas, so [you see] the virtual decline of the horse-­breeding industry," he says. "You've got breeders going to where they can try to do better. And I was frankly shocked to learn that across Texas, everywhere I go, breeders are leaving the state."

"The neighboring states have so successfully used their gaming to cannibalize our population and funding and everything else," says Dr. Jackie Rich, a veterinarian and president of Texas HORSE, an organization attempting to expand gambling options on racetracks. "Our breeders and owners have to go where the money is. It's just decimated the entire equine industry of Texas. It's dying."

The numbers seem to justify the cynicism facing the industry. According to data shared by HORSE, race dates have dropped by 46 percent over the past decade. In the same time frame, purses have dropped by more than half. The foal crop has collapsed by nearly 60 percent. Everything — the mares, the thoroughbreds, the entertainment — has headed elsewhere.

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21 comments
JennyM
JennyM

It's just hard to believe that anyone would really want to stop the Alabama Coushattas from putting up a casino.  For crying out loud - the whole country is still wounded from the recession, and casinos definitely contribute to the economy of wherever they're located.  More to the point, if any Native American tribe wants a casino, why not?  This is still their country before it's anyone else's.

There is nothing in the Bible that forbids gambling, although there are commands not to cheat, oppress, steal, murder, etc.  So perhaps these "Christians" time would be better spent returning land to people cheated out of it, supporting tribal immersion schools to combat the effects of genocidal oppression directed against an entire race of people by the powers that claimed to be Christian (wonder what Jesus will say on Judgment Day in regard to the abuses perpetrated by workers at Indian boarding schools?).  Maybe instead of worrying about the speck in our neighbor's eye we should remove the log from our own - OOPS! - that seems to have been said a long time ago somewhere. 

seasincarnadine
seasincarnadine

Is there any way to see who in the legislature keeps voting against gaming and whether they themselves are taking campaign contributions fron casinos in OK and LA?  I imagine most of the self-righteous religious rhetoric is merely a hypocritical coverup for politicians that are shills for out-of-state casinos. 

Secondly, our state seems hell-bent on using "lower taxes" as a crutch to eviscerate the education system.  (Seems those on top have figured out that the best way to maintain social stratification is to keep the poor uneducated)  For Christ's sake, this would at least provide those leaders with one less excuse as to why "we need to cut teachers" or "kids shouldn't have to learn algebra". 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

We will have gaming inside Texas when the Choctaws and Chickasaws can have a license on their terms, which basically means no disclosure.

jazzyjanuary44
jazzyjanuary44

damn what is wrong with these crazy ass people...its time you have the damn lottery and shit ,is that gambling.

brian.zygo
brian.zygo

As a Baylor graduate who grew up Roman Catholic, the hypocrisy of the anti-gaming sources here in Texas remind me of an old joke about why you take two Southern Baptist friends when you go fishing instead of just one.

Ricardo Sanchez
Ricardo Sanchez

To approve lottery, we were assured that the revenue generated would finance the State's educational needs.It is now 2013 and it has done nothing to help out our state and our children. Allowing casinos in our state will only serve the money interests while creating more social problems which our society cannot handle.

aliberaltexan
aliberaltexan

It is time for casino gambling in Texas.  Good grief.  Are we stuck in a freakin' time warp?

Scott Hunter
Scott Hunter

You've had the lottery for years, taxes on alcohol for years, etc., etc. ... and now you need a casino to create jobs and revenue? What a joke.

Daniel Rex
Daniel Rex

It's not a tax unless you consume it or use it people.

Darrell Maxwell
Darrell Maxwell

We need to keep Texas money in Texas. It would bring in a lot of tourism. Create a lot of jobs. If you prefer church please go there. You too will benefit from the new income.

Scott Caffrey
Scott Caffrey

Doesn't make since to allow the revenue that is generated from Casinos to be taken out of state. People are going to gamble so the state should capitalize on it.

Dodd Melcher
Dodd Melcher

C'mon. From Houston all you have to do is drive two hours to Louisiana and back if you want to gamble. Less if you live in Dallas and drive to Oklahoma. Then Texas is still stuck with those poor gamblers, but without the tax revenue and additional jobs.

Semeon Butters Risom
Semeon Butters Risom

Whataburger and chick-fil-a are a tax on the poor. Legalized gambling should be brought to Texas. It would bring huge revenue back to the state.

Jeff Hunter
Jeff Hunter

We should not have full-on casinos here in Texas, but I would legalize Texas Hold "Em for Texas bars.

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

Why do we allow Southern Baptist fucks to travel to NM, Lousyanna, & Oklahoma in order to satisfy their gambling lust?  Let the light of day shine for all.  Can you say hypocrite?  It is time Texas has gambling casinos and all forms of betting including a betting pool for those on Death Row.  Oh, I nearly forgot.  I nearly forgot about the Hammer or Wild Thang. Tom "I ain't done a day in prison" Delay.  I smell vermin in the air.

Anse
Anse

I'm not surprised that folks are not eager to legalize casinos. They're sleaze magnets. But I suppose they're no filthier than a gas refinery, so who cares? Just keep 'em isolated and out of the way and let folks do what they want. 

quinnolivarez
quinnolivarez

The fact that gaming isn't easy to come by in Texas is really alarming. While a little off topic, suppose a resort featuring gaming opened in Galveston. It would instantly be a major revenue-generator for the city, and like the article mentions, would keep the tax revenue that comes from gaming in-state. From what I understand, the bill on gaming at horse tracks also would potentially make poker legal in such establishments, as well as bingo halls. This would be a coup

JennyM
JennyM

@seasincarnadine 

1. I'd wager on Cornyn.

2. Surely you're not suggesting that the Haves give up a whole dollar now and then in taxes for programs benefiting the Have-Nots!  Downright un-American, that.

 
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