Posted on: January 26, 2022, 03:03h.

Last update on: January 26, 2022, 03:03h.

A recent debate between Republican candidates vying for Texas’ 122n/a The House siege shows that the legalization of commercial gambling remains a contentious issue. Politicians offered contradictory positions at the San Antonio forum.

San Antonio is one of four communities in Texas where proponents of gambling expansion in the last legislative session wanted to place commercial gambling property
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick pictured above. The Republican remains opposed to commercial casino gambling in the state. (Picture; Texas Grandstand)

Four candidates — Adam Blanchard, Elisa Chan, Mark Cuthbert and Mark Dorazio — participated in the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum last week. Incumbent Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) is not running for election.

San Antonio is one of four communities in Texas where proponents of gambling expansion in the last legislative session wanted to place commercial gambling property. The other cities are: Dallas, Houston and Austin.

Cuthbert, a financial services executive, wants the issue to be voted on by Texas residents in a referendum.

People should be “free to indulge in their pleasure and how they spend their money”, San Antonio Report, a local news agency, quoted Cuthbert. But he added that he was “deeply, deeply conflicted” on the issue.

Stronger support for the casinos came from Blanchard, who owns a business. He noted how taxpayers’ money was now flowing out of the state to neighboring areas with legalized gambling.

If we can afford to build other sources of revenue that can help us fight this property tax problem, why don’t we do it? Blanchard was quoted by the Reporting.

Other business owners vying for the seat seemed more skeptical. Dorazio asked, “What is the real cost-benefit we have to go through for someone who has a brother-in-law – like me – who was addicted to [gambling] and lost his family? Additionally, Chan said the matter should be looked into.

Commercial casino gambling cannot be made legal in Texas without the support of at least two-thirds of the members of the Texas House and two-thirds of the members of the Texas Senate. That would send it to a popular vote.

Popular opinion

In January 2021, a University of Houston Hobby School poll found that 58% of Texans supported allowing full casino gaming in Texas. Another 18% support a limited expansion of the game on the state’s three Indian reservations and existing horse and dog tracks.

Additionally, Las Vegas Sands supports the expansion of gambling in Texas. The company lobbied for pro-gambling legislation.

Asked about the matter, Mark P. Jones, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, predicted on Tuesday “The legalization of gambling will remain an issue in Texas politics until casino gambling is legalized.”

Political risks

“However, a full third of Republicans in Texas want to leave gambling laws as they are (or repeal them), and even pragmatic Republicans in Texas fear that if they vote for casino gambling, that the vote may harm them in future Republican primaries,” Jones said.

Many Republicans oppose the expansion of casino gambling in Texas on principled grounds, Jones adds. They see gambling as a sin or as a contributor to social and economic problems, Jones explained.

Additionally, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans, “remain adamantly opposed” to casino gambling, Jones said. “If Patrick in particular doesn’t support a bill, his chances of even reaching the Texas Senate floor for a vote, let alone getting the required two-thirds majority, are about as close to zero as possible without being less than zero. “Abbott and Patrick are up for re-election in November.

So, barring a budget crisis of epic proportions over the next four years, all indications today are that casino gaming legislation is dead when it comes to Austin,” Jones predicts.

But Clyde Barrow, a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said that the Texas legislature will return to regular session in January 2023. “At that time, I expect casino legalization to be back on the table,” he said.