Austin, TX, 3 minutes ago – – Efforts are being made to bring casinos to the Lone Star State as an infantry of lobbyists have their sights set on the state capital – and their work is cut out for them. The titanic lobbying apparatus will face political resistance and time constraints in a state that does not have a commercial casino.
Texas is a gambling desert. The Texas State Law Library describes the state as "one of the strictest" in terms of gambling bans, and there are only two casino-like entertainment centers.
The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, operated by the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas (KTTT), is one of only two gambling centers in the state. The federal government grants the KTTT with fewer than 1,000 members the right to operate the plant via the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA).
Another destination, Naskila Entertainment in Livingston, has some gambling but is still not a full-blown casino. The Alabama Coushatta (AC) tribe of Texas who own the entertainment center has fought against state authorities in court to retain its ability to offer electronic bingo.
IGRA describes general parameters for different game levels and divides them into three classes – I, II and III. IGRA defines Class I games as "social games for only prizes of minimal value or traditional forms of Indian gaming in which individuals participate as part of or in connection with tribal ceremonies or celebrations".
Bingo and card games, which are generally legal in a particular state, are Class II games in that state. Tribal Gaming Centers do not need state approval to offer Class II games.
Class III gambling includes all bank card games as well as slot machines that are not based on bingo. According to the American Gaming Association, Texas is one of only four states that accompany Nebraska, Alaska and Alabama and completely prohibit Class III gaming.
The Texas Lottery has been operating since 1991 and recorded For the first time since its inception, fiscal 2019 revenue exceeded $ 6 billion.
Las Vegas Sands is a company promoting more casino gambling in Texas. Those efforts were fueled by the late Sheldon Adelson, who was chairman and CEO of the company when he passed away last month. Adelson's successor Rob Goldstein announced in an earnings call last month that the company still has a heart for Texas.
"You can't deny the power of Texas, the size and the scale. And I was there last week and it's been a fascinating couple of days," Goldstein said loudly a transcription of the call. "And again we hold talks. We search, kick the tires and advise you if something comes from Texas."
According to the Texas Ethics Commission recordsLas Vegas Sands has hired 60 lobbyists so far to help realize the company's vision for the state to bless casinos.
One of the committees these lobbyists can turn to is the Texas House Licensing and Administrative Procedure Committee, which has jurisdiction includes Consideration of laws that regulate the gambling industry.
In an interview with The TexanRep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso), a member of the committee, said he was open to the idea of legalizing casinos in Texas, provided there was a community buy-in where the casinos were located.
"The tax base – right now with everything that has happened to our economy because of the pandemic – could really use the incentive, could really use the support." This would help our local property tax, ”Fierro said, pointing to the economic benefits Texas loses when people travel outside of the state to gamble.
Fierro also stressed that he thought his constituents would be open to the concept.
"I think my constituents want economic development, they want tax breaks, they want more jobs, I think these are all things my constituents want, and (…) I think El Paso County needs," said Fierro.
However, Fierro noted, "Any bill that I think would be good for Texas as a state should include tribal gambling."
"I think if we're going to do it for one, we should do it for all three, provided the community can support it," said Fierro.
Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) has proposed a constitutional amendment at Texas House that, if passed, would require Texan lawmakers to pass the laws necessary to facilitate the licensing of nine new casinos near the Texas coast . The amendment would be submitted to the electorate in a referendum in November.
Deshotel's legislation would also create a contract with the KTTT that would allow them to operate a Class III gaming casino under the IGRA. The pact would have to be approved by the federal government.
However, a knockback from parties aware of the risks of addiction and family values - not to mention temporary lawmakers – can hurt the prospect of more casinos.
Texas Values is an advocacy group that has significant influence under Republican lawmakers. The Austin-based group indicates his vision is said to "represent biblical Judeo-Christian values by ensuring that Texas is a state where religious freedom thrives, families thrive, and every human life is valued."
Jonathan Covey, director of policy at Texas Values, stated the nonprofit's opposition to legalized casino gambling.
"We don't support legalizing casinos in Texas. It's not good for families and it's not good for the economy," said Covey The Texan.
There are other issues that arise in a state where casinos are commonplace, such as enforcing laws to protect the casinos themselves.
For example, casinos and government agencies in Colorado were reportedly notorious for aggressively tracking casino customers – even the ignorant – who have broken laws prohibiting the use of remaining balance in slot machines or picking up chips from the floor.
Enforcement is just one of the issues that legislators would need to consider, as the clock is constantly ticking in the regular meeting. The session only has 105 days left and the legislature has a number of points to discuss before summer.
Spokesman Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has reportedly shown interest in commercial casinos, with the caveat that they should be treated as an expanded project rather than a temporary deterrent Budget problems.
"I told you what I'm going to tell you. It's about jobs, it's about ad valorem, it's about a real long-term commitment to the communities in which these casinos exist (…)," Phelan said, according to a Social media post until Texas Tribune. "But if you come over here and try to put a $ 4 billion hole in this budget that we're going to be writing by May of this year, it just doesn't work."
A bill legalizing casinos would require the approval of Governor Greg Abbott. His earlier statements on the matter indicate that this may be unlikely.
When the AC Tribe and Rep Brian Babin (R-TX-36) were looking for law at the federal level to consolidate the tribe's legal position to operate Naskila Entertainment, Abbott sent a letter to members of Congress vehemently opposed the invoice. He has blown efforts to compromise the state's right to regulate casinos.
This time, however, the governor may be ready to entertain the thought. Abbott reportedly stated that he would like to keep lines of communication open between lawmakers, their constituents, and the governor's office.
"One thing I want to do is when the members come to town I want the opportunity to visit the members, get a sense of where they are, and most importantly, they will become extremely popular with their constituents make a good contribution. " Abbott told that tribune in one (n interview after his State of the status address.
"And what we all need to hear is the voice and pulse of our constituents, and one of the best ways to do that is to speak directly to the members who will speak to their constituents about it."
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was less receptive. He said on a radio appearance last week that gambling legislation is likely to be unsuccessful because the problem is fraught with "competing interests".
"So it's not going anywhere, and it's not even an issue that will see the light of day at this session," said Patrick.
In any case, proposals like Deshotel's constitutional amendment would not require approval from the governor. The Texan voters could decide the matter directly.
Such a change would have a great chance of being passed. One recently survey The University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent, showed that 50 percent of Texans support "full casino gaming like Nevada (and) Louisiana".
Only six percent said they are in favor of banning all gambling, 15 percent would leave the laws as they are, 15 percent would support casinos on Indian reservations and "existing horse and dog tracks," and 14 percent would not comment.
Of those who responded, 65 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans, and 60 percent of independent voters supported full legalization of casino gambling.