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.

Kohler, who works with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, will affirm to anyone who listens that Texas's electoral model is the "gold standard" of democracy. Any further slide toward pure democracy runs counter to this state's politics. "What about people who've already voted?" he asks. "What about people who've already chosen? Everyone has a right to participate, but don't try to trick people."

This focus on prohibiting gambling is twofold. First, there remains a moralistic component — the same strain that opposes same-sex marriage, abortions, et al. — that the Right cites. "I think there's a moral component," says Cathie Adams, president of the right-wing Texas Eagle Forum. "I do call [gambling] a vice, and morally it is wrong to put upon those who you know cannot best provide for their families already. So many people may think that the streets are lined with gold in Texas."

Families break. Children learn improper ethics. The Christian God stands displeased. And on it goes.

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.

But this opposition to gambling doesn't stem just from the same religious component that keeps certain counties dry. Rather, the past two decades of experience with the Texas Lottery have shown detractors what can happen when, as they see it, gambling infiltrates the system and begins to prey upon the weakest.

Kohler, who worked with the Texas Lottery for nearly a decade, points to recent survey data shared by the Texas Lottery Commission. Conducted by the University of Houston's Hobby Center for Public Policy, the TLC's 2012 demographic study shows that 61 percent of those participating in the Lottery are white, with 13 percent of participants black and 21 percent Hispanic. It also states that more than 40 percent of those participating have either a college or a graduate degree.

However, while this jibes with certain imagery in recent Texas Lottery advertisements — see the recent television commercial with the well-heeled Caucasian man doing his prototypical white-guy dance — it remains strongly misleading. The TLC survey pool stood at 62 percent white and 19 percent Hispanic — even though, according to the 2010 Census, the state's demographic makeup stands at 45 percent white and 38 percent Hispanic. (The black population remained constant in both surveys.)

The educational discrepancies remain just as stark. While 41 percent of TLC respondents had either college or professional degrees, in reality, according to the Census's American Community Survey, only 32 percent of Texans have actually attained such educational levels.

"One of the things that time and information did for me is change my opinion because of the predatory nature of the Lottery in maintaining the amount of funds it sends to the state budget," says state Rep. Garnet Coleman, who represents one of the lower-income districts of the state and is one of the few Democrats who oppose gambling expansion. "People are seeing stars and glitter as opposed to the negative side that comes with casino gaming. People have to go in with eyes wide open."

Kohler's supporters also claim that the Lottery has misappropriated profits and misled legislators, but representatives of TLC vociferously dispute the claim and point to the $1 billion the commission annually generates for public education. "While we respect folks like Mr. Kohler and his viewpoints, and anyone that has sensitivities about any form of gaming, I've not ever really heard another solution for providing that $1 billion," says TLC spokesperson Kelly Cripe.

Still, time and information have also begun denting the other gambling methods recently cited by expansion supporters. In Kentucky, for instance, a case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court challenging the legitimacy of the additional gaming systems that have recently helped revive the state's equine industry.

"They're basically slot machines," Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, says of the historic gaming machines. "The government should not make its citizens losers in order that it can be a winner — government should protect its citizens. When the state is on the cusp of issuing [gambling] licenses, what they're actually doing is issuing hunting licenses for the wealth of its citizens."

But these are broad, somewhat specious issues. Moralism is intangible; the Texas Lottery is a government-run game and subject to attendant scrutiny. If and when the Alabama-Coushatta and racetracks land their gaming, individual Texans — individual Houstonians — will be the ones to gain and suffer and triumph and collapse. Gaming options will proliferate. Gambling addiction will likely swell alongside.

"[Of all types of gambling], video gaming is the most addictive," says Bob Cabaniss, executive director of Virginia-based Williamsville Wellness, one of the nation's more notable treatment facilities. "It's the fastest, and with old slot machines you pulled a handle, and now you just push a button. The more access...the bigger the problem's going to be."

As for the revenues that could be generated and the potential for an educational boon: "It's always to help schools. Everything's to help schools," Cabaniss muses. "It's almost like blood money — we spend this money and we're good guys."

"It's interesting to see who's for it and who's not and why," says state Rep. Lance Gooden, one of the few Republican members of the House who say they're willing to send the vote to their constituents. "None of it's for moral reasons — it's 100 percent about money."
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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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