By Donna Garner
I want to say thank you to Senators Jane Nelson, Florence Shapiro, and other GOP Senators who are seasoned enough to recognize that behind-the-scenes gambling proponents are plotting their strategies.
Five senators confirmed Monday that the new panel formed Thursday by the Senate State Affairs Committee to hear a gambling resolution by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, quickly triggered concerns from GOP senators about whether the move was a prelude by proponents of casinos to shoehorn the issue into legislative discussions about how to pay for Senate-proposed changes in financing public schools — expected to cost about $4 billion more than the House version.
By this time, many Texans know that Speaker of the House Joe Straus and his family have made a fortune from their gambling interests. He and/or his family own Retama Park in Selma (near San Antonio), Laredo Downs, Valle de los Tesoros Park in McAllen, and Austin Jockey Club.
It is also common knowledge that land has already been bought in Austin along FM 1625 at Texas Highway 45 and Old Lockhart Road to set up a racetrack called Longhorn Downs; Retama Entertainment Group (Straus’ family) is to manage it.
Straus and his family want to turn their race tracks into major slot machine casinos called “racinos” which could potentially make tens of millions of dollars. The only impediment is Texas lawmakers who have yet to approve slot machines (VLT’s).
VLT’s are said to be the “crack cocaine of gambling” because VLT’s prey on pathological gamblers who can become completely addicted in one year. At that point, the addiction becomes society’s problems too because just as cocaine addicts will commit almost any acts of violence to get their drugs, pathological gamblers will do the same.
To help expand gambling in Texas, Speaker Straus chose Rep. Mike Hamilton (R – Mauriceville) as chair of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. Senators Rodney Ellis and Eddie Lucio are pushing the expansion of gambling in the Senate.
Rep. Hamilton wants a full racetrack casino (“racino”) at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie and also five luxury casinos (one per county) in Tarrant, Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis Counties. (4.28.11 — Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: Bill in Texas Legislature could result in luxury casino at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie
Just last week on May 13, 2011, the Texas Racing Commission approved the sale of Lone Star Park, a race track in Grand Prairie. Who bought it? None other than Global Gaming LSP/Global Gaming Solutions/ Racing Partners of Texas. (Steve Mostyn who gave $5 Million to Texas political candidates during the last election cycle is tied to Racing Partners of Texas.) Other owners are the Chickasaw Indians and a lobbyist who is conveniently located right there in Austin, Ricky Knox. ( : 5.13.11 — Austin American-Statesman; Racing Commission approves Sale of Lone Star Park
Undoubtedly Straus, Hamilton, Knox, the Chickasaws, Mostyn, Racing Partners of Texas, the Texas Racing Commission, and others (a.k.a., the Straus gambling crowd) are all quite comfy with one another. What is that saying? “Birds of a feather flock together.”
It is my thinking that Straus and his gambling crowd have a Plan A and a backup Plan B. Still alive in Plan A is HB 254 authored by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R – Kerrville). He has tried to make his bill look very innocent: Who could possibly object to race track derbies? However, it is only one tiny babystep to introduce and pass legislation that would allow slots at race tracks which would turn the race track derbies into “racinos.”
HB 254 has been voted out of the House and is to be heard by the Senate State Affairs Committee on 5.16.11.
Notice how the Texas House voted on this bill. Remember how many of these Texas Legislators were given campaign contributions from Straus in exchange for their pledge to vote him in as Speaker.
Guess who appeared as a witness FOR the race track derby bill? Rob Kohler of the Christian Life Commission Baptist General Convention of Texas — What could he possibly have been thinking? Does he not understand that this bill is a small step away from taking us down the slippery slope of “racinos”? Has Kohler allowed himself to be manipulated by the Straus gambling crowd?
I believe that Plan A was to try to ram the expansion of gambling right through the Texas Legislature by utilizing various committee chairmen and committee members (appointed by Straus and Dewhurst) who would then pass bills that would open the door to gambling in Texas.
When that plan was thwarted by conservative Legislators and other concerned citizens who exposed it to the “light of day,” Plan B was launched.
Plan B was initiated on May 12 when the Senate State Affairs Committee formed a subcommittee to hear Senators Rodney Ellis and Eddie Lucio’s gambling expansion bill. According to seasoned observers of the Texas Legislature, it is a rarity for a subcommittee such as this to be formed so late in the session.
The gambling proponents have attempted to dress up Ellis and Lucio’s bill to make it look as if it is the answer to the education budget crisis. “The bill would provide financial aid for college students.” Other gambling proponents are saying, “Gambling would raise $3 Billion to help lessen the budget crisis for Texas schools.”
One slight problem for Straus’ gambling crowd: Casino games and slots would actually raise Texas’ debt by $58 Million! That was the findings of the Legislative Budget Board on 3.29.11 when they analyzed the cost of two casino and VLT bills (Woolley, Menendez).
Who in his right mind would want to create $58 Million more debt for Texas? Those of us with any common sense at all would not base our state’s future on the promises made by gamblers!
The facts are that according to the New York Times (7.29.10), the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that the social costs of gambling outweighed the benefits by 3 to 1. Seven states have quantified their costs of gambling addiction, bankruptcy, and crime. The cost averages $13,000 per person.
Professor Earl L. Grinols, who is one of the leading economic experts on gambling in the United States, concluded that in the Midwest and South [including Texas], gambling caused a net loss to the community by removing gambling dollars from the local economy, and the local taxpayers had to pay for the “increased crime, personal bankruptcy, domestic violence, lost workdays, child abuse and other social costs from problem gamblers.”
EMPTY RHETORIC ABOUT GAMBLING
Gambling supporters are saying, “The expansion of gambling in Texas would create 77,500 permanent jobs in Texas.” First of all, how is this possible when there are only 178,700 jobs in the gambling industry nationwide?
What kind of gambling jobs would these be? The vast majority of employees would make less than $20,000 per year, possibly even lower than that because jobs in Texas usually pay less than the national average.
Furthermore, there is no incentive for gambling workers to move up; and there is plenty of data that suggests that people with low incomes wager more in total dollar amounts than people who make above $50,000 in income. In other words, the poorly educated gambling workers with their meager salaries of less than $20,000 per year would tend to gamble their paychecks away.
(Data taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – 2010 – 2011 —
We cannot quit now even though we are tired of fighting these gambling bills. It is time once again to contact your legislators. The Straus gambling crowd is pushing to have a Special Session in which they could bring numerous gambling bills back to life. State Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton said in the Houston Chronicle last Saturday that he thinks the gambling issue will gain renewed life in a Special Session.
Rep. Todd Hunter (R – Corpus Christi) also thinks the gambling bills are not dead because they are being called “revenue measures” which could put them into the mix in a Special Session called on the budget.
For more information, please go to my 5.8.11 article entitled “Stop Gambling Expansion in Texas” posted at: