This is usually how it goes.
Let Texans Decide, a pro-gambling organization that is fronted by former state Sen. John Montford, was aligned at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session with big casino interests in a call for full-scale casino gambling in Texas, whether at horse and dog tracks or at yet-to-be-built destination resort casinos.
But as the session progressed, the chances of passing a measure for casino gambling appeared to grow slimmer. And now, Montford’s group, which advocated legislation in 2011 to permit slot machines at tracks, has returned to its old way of thinking.
“This was the position we originally took,” Montford said. “I do believe that this is a reasonable approach.”
The goal has always been the same: to get a gambling-related bill through the Legislature and have the matter put in front of the voters of Texas, the former senator said.
While it is always difficult to gain approval for gambling legislation from the Texas Legislature, some factors at play now could help, Montford said.
For one, there is growing support among Republicans in the House for slot machines at racetracks, he said. Recently, John Kuempel of Seguin and Rep. Ralph Sheffield of Temple signed on to a slot bill by Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo. Montford said he was encouraged that more members are willing to allow constituents to vote on a gambling initiative.
Montford is also happy that a slots-at-tracks measure by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, where more senators could hear the testimony.
See here and here to compare what’s being said now to what was said before. I have my doubts that this was a consensus decision, since the casino interests and the horse racing interests have generally not been on the same page in the past, but whatever. I’ll believe there’s movement when something gets passed out of committee. As it happens, while there are three pieces of legislation relating to expanded gambling – the latest, SJR64 by Sen. John Carona, was filed this week – none have yet been scheduled for committee hearings.
The other players in the game, notably the big Las Vegas casino companies, might be quiet now, but that doesn’t mean they have lost hope in the long run.
Some gambling proponents could see an opportunity if there is a special legislative session, as expected, focusing on financing public schools.
If lawmakers are scrambling in a special session for new money to comply with an expected court order to put more money into education, then casinos are “more optimistic for serious consideration,” said John Pitts, a lobbyist for several large casino interests.
Maybe. A scenario where more revenue is required and there’s no two ways around it is probably a prerequisite for any expansion of gambling to happen. I still think it’s highly unlikely, but I suppose anything is possible. I wouldn’t bet on it, though. The equally pessimistic Burka has more.