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.

Houston, of course, is no different from any other megalopolis, any other population center, with its gamers and addicts and victims. These are people in all castes. Gambling abuse doesn't settle on any particular ­demographic.

For example, one local gentleman, now offering his story to anyone calling Gamblers Anonymous for help or information, knew the Alabama-Coushatta's casino well. This man, whom we'll call Dan, was a white-collar six-­figure type. Never gambled much in his youth, never really bet in his young days of risk and hormones. And then he grew, and he married, and his children left for school, and his wife left for work: And something broke. Suddenly, golf wagers jumped. Suddenly, errands turned into runs to underground eight-liners. Suddenly, business trips were redirected to the fluorescent haze of Oklahoma and Lake Charles and Las Vegas.

Dan hit an early run that hitched him to the gambling he'd never known. "I became one of the idiots I used to shake my head about," he says, repeating the story he shares with those who call. "Gambled every day that I could. If I wasn't gambling, I was thinking about gambling or how to get the money to gamble, or thinking about how to get the money back that I'd begged, borrowed or stolen."

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.

A quarter-million in debt. Employer credit cards lifted and lost. Phantom accounts opened in his spouse's name. And lying. Lying every day. Lying to every person, to every neighbor and partner and loved one that he knew.

"There never seems to be a winning big enough to make the smallest dream come true," Dan says. "All these lies are directed toward allowing us to continue to gamble. When we lose, we gamble; when we win, we keep gambling. We can't stop. We've lost the ability to stop."

Years passed and bank accounts buckled. His employer began asking questions. Dan lied, knowing he could risk one final run, one final rush. He had $600 remaining — blew half of it on the drive to Louisiana. He got to the casino. Parked, walked in. Looked for whatever was closest to the door. Poker it was.

"Best cards I ever got in my life," he remembers. "I lost everything. Lost straights, lost flushes, lost full houses. The only hand I remember winning was when everyone else folded." But that fold was early; the losses came after. His wallet — his accounts, his options, his head — was empty.

It was 4 a.m. by the time Dan walked back to his car. The lot had thinned, but not by much. A neon sign buzzed above: "Texan Wins $1 Million!" He smiled wanly. Not this one.

Dan opened his trunk and pulled out a rifle. One bullet in the chamber. One bullet in the chamber for years. Dan put his head on the roof, felt the cool morning metal on his cheek. The barrel met his eye. Circle to circle. Exit to entry. "God, forgive me for what I'm about to do." The neon light flickered above, and his thumb reached for the trigger.

A thought slid in from nowhere he recognized. "The first rational thought I'd had in years," he says. A thought to confess. A thought to amend and to open up to those who'd sniffed and guessed and discovered the threads of lies slithering through every relationship he knew. Honesty held his thumb and dropped it. Dan climbed in the car and drove back.

After 50 days in prison and a decade of probation — after losing anything he'd held close — Dan has found work as a builder, tying his college degree and executive background to the drywall he now hangs for a living. He hasn't seen a single casino since he joined Gamblers Anonymous. He hasn't laid a single bet, even though each day is as exhausting as the previous one.

"It's probably the easiest condition to hide, compulsive gambling — the only people you have to hide it from are the ones closest to you and the ones that want to believe you, " Dan says. "I saw this one study that asked why compulsive gamblers gamble, and one scientist said it was for the money. He couldn't be more wrong."
_____________________

A boarded-up hotel sags on the eastern side of Livingston, the town nearest the Alabama-Coushatta's reservation. Weeds and overgrown pampas wrap the warped cyclone fence. A lone black cat scurries across the balcony, the only sign of life in a bloated, bleached building. "Local cities, they started booming," Kyle Williams says, recalling what his people's casino brought. "Hotels and restaurants were everywhere. And once our complex shut down, those went out of ­business."

Indeed, the Alabama-Coushatta weren't the only ones benefiting from the casino. Of the 300 people employed, only 80 were Native Americans — the rest came from nearby towns. The fiscal ripple didn't end at the reservation line. And now, touring the outer rings of Livingston, you can see the crater left by the casino's ­closure.

The tribe, however, hasn't forgotten its neighbors — after all, Sam Houston originally demarcated the Alabama-Coushatta's land because of their aid in the Texas Revolution against Mexico. Even though their revenue collapsed following the end of gaming, the Alabama-Coushatta have continued to maintain the region's only Head Start program, with 90 percent of the children bused in from non-reservation lands.

« 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...