Texas governmental candidates open to gaming expansion

The chances that legalized gambling could be expanded throughout Texas in the near future are greater than ever considering that the four primary candidates for the state’s governor race all have been supportive, or at least open to the idea.

In a recent article, the candidates views on gaming were chronicled: Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, has already proposed allowing the state’s racetracks and Native American tribes to operate Class III slot machines during his stint in office; Democrat candidate Chris Bell has said he is open to casinos in order to generate tax revenues to support education and social programs.

Besides, State Comptroller Keeton Strayhorn, running as an independent, has spoken favorably about Class III slots at racetracks and on tribal lands; and another independent candidate, entertainer and novelist Kinky Friedman has steadfastly raved about casinos, noting several of his „fact-finding“ trips to Las Vegas. „We invented Texas Hold ’em, and we can’t even play it here,“ Friedman has said on the campaign trail. Also favoring the pro-gaming contingent is a lack of a strong opposition campaign this year.

„I think we’ve got a very good shot at getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot so the voters can decide what gaming opportunities they’d be willing to support,“ said Bill Stinson, a lobbyist for the pro-casino group Let the Voters Decide „Everyone on the statewide ballot has indicated they’d be open to it.“

Yet the lack of a viable governor candidate with opposition to expanded gambling efforts has not deterred anti-gambling forces in the state in speaking out. The group Texans for Public Justices recently announced figures that show pro-gaming forces had contributed almost us$ 2.5 million to gubernatorial candidates since 2003. Perry has reportedly received us$ 1.3 million. Strayhorn is second, collecting us$ 1.1 million, while Bell has received us$ 5,500.

The contributions, anti-gaming forces noted, means there could be a significant push for expanded gaming measures in next year’s Legislature. Suzii Paynter, head of the anti-gambling Christian Life Commission, an arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said that pro-gaming forces were well-funded in 2003 when a major effort was launched to legalize slots as a way to fund a us$ 10 billion state budget shortfall.

„We were able to beat it back because we’ve always had a solid core of lawmakers who understood that this is not the sort of economic development we need in the state of Texas,“ she said.