This is one of the more disturbing political stories I’ve seen lately, both for its lack of concrete information and its far-reaching implications.
Texas’ ailing racing industry is planning an expensive gamble for survival — a $3 million campaign and lobbying effort to bring slot machines to the state’s horse and dog tracks.
Texans for Economic Development, the umbrella group for track owners, breeders and other segments of the racing industry, has budgeted $1 million to contribute to campaigns in the 2008 legislative elections and $2 million for a lobbying effort to convince lawmakers that the tracks need slot machines to survive, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday.
It’s a tough sell. State lawmakers have brought up the possibility of slots at tracks in the past, but all efforts have failed under opposition to expanding gambling in Texas. Proponents want Texas voters to decide.
Group President Tommy Azopardi said the $1 million will be targeted on about a dozen races in the state House of Representatives.
“It’s not about Democrats and Republicans, it’s not about the speaker’s race,” Azopardi said. “It’s not about anything other than, ‘Are you for VLTs (slot machines) or not?’”
That’s a hell of a lot of money to put into State Rep races, and it raises the very big question of what races are they intending to put it in? And are we talking primaries, general elections, or both? Are they targeting people for defeat, or aiming at open seats? Or are they just going to hand out cash to those they perceive as softly opposed to their position, in hopes of getting them on their side?
I agree it’s not about Democrats or Republicans, as there are supporters and opponents of slot machines on both sides of the aisle. As for the Speaker’s race, certain key Craddick lieutenants, such as Kino Flores, are both supporters of expanded gambling and involved in hot races. I don’t care what Azopardi says, if they are supporting Flores (I’m just hypothesizing here), they are supporting Craddick. Perhaps they will balance their support fairly evenly among the Craddickites and the anti-Craddickites, but the bottom line is that almost any contested race this year is to some extent is about the Speaker’s race. It can’t be avoided.
It’s a shame that there’s no indication of what the pro-gambling forces intend to do with their million bucks. We ought to know more when the next round of campaign finance reports come out, but still. This is a big deal, and it deserves a lot more scrutiny.