Politicians should let casinos ride
As casino and racetrack supporters made their case Wednesday, the odds of bringing casinos in Texas seemed to lengthen as state Republicans reaffirmed their moral objections and even some Democrats seemed to waver on a proposal many of them support. Still, despite the odds in their favor, casino proponents are eager to turn the issue to a proposed constitutional amendment for the people to vote on.
For that to happen, the proposal must survive two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate. Frankly, state lawmakers should just let the chips fall where they may and let the people vote, and there is considerable pro-gambling support.
A recent Bizjournals.com poll found that 83 percent of Texans would support casino gambling if it would help close the budget gap. An Oct. 9, 2010 WFAA.com poll found 54 percent of Texans support casinos in Texas and 58 percent favor slot machines and video lottery terminals at racetracks. A 2011 survey by Baselice and Associates found that 59 percent of Republican voters, whose representatives are staunch opponents of gambling in general, support allowing the construction of 12 gaming resorts, installation of casino gaming at existing racetracks and on three Indian reservations, while 83 percent believe the people should vote on the measure either way.
If the ideological opposition is warm to the possibilities of casino gambling and more than four in five Republican voters want to see the measure brought to a vote, our representatives have no business blocking something the people want and they recognize the benefits.
Julio Rodriguez of cardplayer.com said states that collect revenue from casino and lottery taxes can bring in up to billions of dollars in revenue. New York collects $3.64 billion in total casino and lottery revenues, and Pennsylvania brings in $1.46 billion in casino revenues alone.
The state would tax gambling revenue at 15 to 20 percent and would mostly use the revenue to reduce property taxes. The city and the county would get the other 15 percent.
Child psychology junior Nicole Napier said introducing casino gambling to Texas would be a big boost to tourism and the economy.
“I think that it could be a great economic boost and tourist attraction,” Napier said. “People are going to gamble regardless. Why not have them come here?”
Tourism is a big part of the state and local economies. According to TripAdvisor.com, three Texas cities — San Antonio, Houston and Austin — were named in its Travelers’ Choice Top 25 Destinations in the United States; however, none are in the top 10, and about half of those cities have casino gambling in or near their vicinity. The ability to visit gambling halls in the cities would improve the tourism profile of our city and increase tourist revenues through the existing hotel taxes along with new local taxes on gambling and slot machines. If Texans don’t gamble here, they will go elsewhere, and if they don’t go elsewhere, they will do it here illegally.
According to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, illegal gambling establishments are rampant in Harris County. From 2003 to 2007, Harris County made 219 gambling arrests and confiscated 2,771 illegal gambling machines.
The games are hard to shut down because of the word-of-mouth advertising and security measures owners take. Spinoff criminal activity often occurs because the people who handle the large amounts of cash are easier targets for criminals, mostly being elderly or women. These illegal establishments are bad for Texas and add an undesirable criminal element but are growing and may continue to grow if Texas residents don’t have any options.
Yes, there is an added crime element with legal casino gambling, but that is something the law can police and control. If video slot and poker machines are allowed to operate out in the open, the gambling black market would eventually dissipate.
No one is saying that only positives could come out of casino gambling, but most Texas voters want it and politicians on both sides of the aisle support it, so there is no reason why our politicians shouldn’t roll the dice and go to a popular vote. If it becomes law, it could be a jackpot for Texas in more ways than one.
Jacob Patterson is a management information systems senior and may be reached at [email protected]