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Pro-casino forces scale back efforts

 - Focus now on racetrack slots

An effort to allow Texas voters to decide whether to legalize casino gambling has been scaled back in the face of booming tax revenues and continued opposition from religious groups.

Instead of pushing for a vote to authorize major casino operations in the state’s urban centers and along the Gulf coast, Let Texans Decide is hoping to convince lawmakers to approve a proposed constitutional amendment allowing residents to vote on allowing slot machines at racetracks.

“The casino gambling vote was widely acknowledged to be a long shot, and the state’s robust fiscal outlook for the next two-year budget cycle sapped any sense of urgency among lawmakers who were hesitant to take a political risk with their religious constituents,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez.

The same lawmakers may be motivated to allow a public vote on allowing casinos next year, though, if the state Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision finding the state’s school finance system unconstitutional.

The judge who issued that ruling estimated lawmakers may need an additional $9-11 billion dollars to comply with the constitutional mandate for an efficient and equitable system of public schools.

“Approving casino gambling in Texas would be a huge cultural and political shift that will likely result only from extraordinary political and fiscal pressure – like needing billions of dollars more for public education,” Rodriguez said.

“If lawmakers do have to return in special sessions next year to find $11 billion for public schools, they’ll have to consider all options – not just tax revenue – to get there.”

While casino advocates don’t promise generating that much additional tax revenue if casinos are authorized, they project $8.5 billion in new economic activity, 75,000 new jobs and $1 billion annually in tax revenue from casinos at racetracks.

Allowing slot machines at racetracks is considered crucial for the Texas horse industry to compete against their counterparts in Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico where race purses are higher.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call 512-322-9944.

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