Gambling legislation is always a hot topic and it’s being discussed again in Texas as a means of raising state revenues. Should the proposals get approval, there is always the possibility that casinos in the Lone Star state would be bigger and better than any others. Neighbouring state Louisiana will be watching the progress of any liberalisation of gaming regulation in Texas as it makes money from Texan gamblers who cannot play at casinos in their own state. Louisiana presently makes some $449 million yearly for its state and local governments from a wide variety of gambling options.
The draft bill aims to bring around $2.5 billion in annual gaming revenue to the state from the introduction of video lottery terminals at racetracks, two Indian casinos and 10 or 12 small casinos. There is already gaming legislation on file that would permit up to four casinos in some counties, giving a maximum of 24. Republican Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, who is drafting the bill, reportedly wants gambling legislation put to the vote once and for all, so that it does not keep cropping up every time the Legislature meets.
For legislation to be passed, that would allow an extension to gambling in Texas, it has to convince the public that gambling taxes are a better way of creating revenue than other forms of tax increases such as sales tax. Pennsylvania’s new legislation for slot machines is intended to reduce property taxes, but last November voters in Washington rejected a similar proposal. Nationwide most gaming issues at the ballot were defeated. Under the Texas legislation on file there would be a 15% tax on casino revenue, some of which would be earmarked for the counties and cities.
Opponents to allowing casinos in Texas highlight the negative aspects of expansion, such as the social costs through problem gambling. Only one tenth of one per cent of tax revenues is expected to go to the compulsive gambling programme run by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Voters in each county would need to approve casinos in their area.
One of the bills filed by the Democrat State Representative Kino Flores declares that regulated limited casino gaming in the state will benefit the general welfare of the people of Texas by enhancing investment, development and tourism, resulting in new jobs and additional revenues to the state. It is the people of Texas, however, who will have the final say. (E-02.23.05)
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