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.

"It doesn't take long to get this circular process going," says Dan Fick, executive director of Texas HORSE and former executive director of the American Quarter Horse Association. "The more money you have for purses, the better horses you're going to get and the more money will be wagered because they're better quality. [How] do you get people to come to Texas to race? You don't. The people still racing are the people who are already here and maybe some others who can't be competitive in other states. But the industry will continue to decline."

And it's not simply those who've remained, those who have seen their ranches and race parks degrade, who have noted the drop-off. According to Casner, who grew galloping horses on the far side of El Paso before relocating to Kentucky, Texas has all but damned its equine industry by preventing any additional gaming at parks. "It's like you have three smartphone stores surrounding Texas, and we're still selling flip phones," Casner says. "And, hey, you know what — who are those states supported by? Texas ­residents!"

While the states surrounding Texas do maintain large-scale casinos, most of their take comes from slots and VLTs. That is, Oklahoma and Louisiana and New Mexico have decimated Texas's horse racing through video games, allowing the consumer a secondary style of gaming between, or in addition to, the races.

Alabama-Coushatta Chairman Kyle Williams has helped steer the tribe's efforts to reclaim the gaming it once maintained, lobbying legislators in both Austin and Washington.
Daniel Kramer
Alabama-Coushatta Chairman Kyle Williams has helped steer the tribe's efforts to reclaim the gaming it once maintained, lobbying legislators in both Austin and Washington.
In 2001, the Alabama-Coushatta opened an entertainment complex with a poker table, a blackjack table and 300 slots, bringing the tribe 
$1 million per month. The casino was forced to close in 2002.
Courtesy of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas
In 2001, the Alabama-Coushatta opened an entertainment complex with a poker table, a blackjack table and 300 slots, bringing the tribe $1 million per month. The casino was forced to close in 2002.

Other states have been in the situation in which Texas currently finds itself, surrounded and disintegrating. Kentucky, another state noted for its equine history, was pinned between states offering additional gaming. According to Corey Johnsen, president of Kentucky Downs, the state granted a couple of parks video-game-style entertainment — a take known as "historic racing" rather than traditional slots — only in late 2011. In the 19 months since legalization, the two tracks involved have seen their revenues increase 500 percent.

"Frankly, Texas should be at the top," says Johnsen, the former president of Grand Prairie's Lone Star Park. "It has everything: the land, the horseman, the heritage. The infrastructure is there. [But] it's virtually impossible to compete there...It has no alternate forms of gaming, and virtually every state has something."

Just to be clear, though, this isn't some distant, localized West Texas phenomenon. Every county and innumerable Texans have been affected by the drop-off in the equine industry. "When you see people that had been at your farm for eight years, and you see them at a horse sale or the racetrack, the conversation is always the same: They had to go where the purse money was," says Danny Shifflett, 77-year-old manager at Hempstead's Lane's End Texas Stallions. "We're sitting here with the most potential of any state in the Southwest, but all we're doing is supplying the other states with support and revenue."

Despite the ostrich races and the country concerts, Houston's Sam Houston Race Park has fared no better. President Andrea Young says hundreds of jobs have been lost since she took over six years ago. And the potential legislation — the potential legalization of VLTs — is about jobs and the potential to save the ones that are still going to be cut. According to a 2011 survey by TXP, an Austin-based consulting firm, Texas would generate nearly 80,000 jobs and $8.5 billion in "economic activity" should racetrack slot machines be implemented in 2013.

Still, Young doesn't want to make VLTs into something they're not. The machines won't be a panacea. They're barely even a start. "It's a Band-Aid — it's mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, not a solution," she says. "It's not even getting us out of the emergency room."

But they're something. They're better than the current reality, better than the situation that all but encourages the investors and the owners and the bettors to uproot for states that provide as much gambling as people want. VLTs may not recoup the losses incurred over the past decade, but they appear to be the only shot the horse industry has at beginning a path back to relevancy. "I'm no optimist about it at all," Casner states. "It would shock me if sanity prevailed. It would just shock me...I don't think the Texas Legislature really gives a damn about the Texas horse industry."
_____________________

And perhaps they don't. Or maybe they've staked out a position from which they can't hide. Because there, written starkly in the Texas GOP's 2012 platform, is a promise, verbatim, to oppose any potential extension of gambling:

"We oppose the expansion of legalized gambling and encourage the repeal of the Texas State lottery. We oppose dedicating any government revenue from gambling to create or expand any government program."

This is the platform to which the majority of both the Texas House and Senate have pledged support. This is the platform for which the majority of Texans voted in 2012. This is the platform upon which, contra Montford's calls, the majority of Texans have already decided.

"On the whole idea of letting people decide, I tell folks that people get the chance to decide already," says Rob Kohler, the leading lobbyist opposed to gambling expansion. "You're basically disenfranchising people who've already participated in the process."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
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.

 
Houston Concert Tickets
Loading...