Pro/Con: Should Texas cash in on gambling?
By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Feb. 17, 2013 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.
Current Texas bills on gambling
• Senate Bill 55, House Bill 109: Relating to local-option elections to legalize or prohibit eight-liner gaming machines, impose a fee on eight-liner owners
Senate Joint Resolution 6: A constitutional amendment to create the Texas Gaming Commission, authorize and regulate casino games and slot machines by a limited number of licensed operators and certain Indian tribes and authorize a limited state video lottery system to be operated at horse and greyhound racetracks and on Indian tribal lands.
House Joint Bill 47: A constitutional amendment to establish a state gaming commission, authorize and provide for the regulation of gaming conducted at certain locations in the state, authorize federally recognized Indian tribes to conduct gaming on certain Indian lands and require the governor to call the Legislature into special session to consider gaming legislation.
House Bill 394, Senate Bill 282: Relating to limiting bingo prizes
House Bill 292: Authorizing and regulating poker gaming
Source: Texas Legislature Online, legis.state.tx.us
Gaming is nothing new to Texans. Throughout the state, bingo halls are scattered on a legal, local-option basis.
Voters created the Texas Lottery Commission by a constitutional amendment in 1991. In 1987, voters opened legal betting on horse and dog racing for the first time in more than 50 years.
One of casinos' most popular card games is named for the Lone Star State: Texas Hold 'Em.
Texas lawmakers are looking at a bill that would bring expanded gambling to a constitutional amendment.
While supporters of the bill say expanded gambling will contribute $8.5 billion to the state, opponents say the revenue increases are promises - not guarantees.
The casino ship Texas Treasure docked and departed from Harbor Island inside Port Aransas city limits.
Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ann Vaughan said the city has not taken a stance for or against gambling.
"There are people who are adamantly opposed to it and people who are adamantly in support of it," Vaughan said.
Port Aransas never did an economic study on the casino ship, but once it left for good, the city saw a dip in sales tax revenue.
Vaughan said Texas Treasure "was not an economic generator" in itself, but gamblers stayed in town, ate at area restaurants and filled up their vehicles with gas before heading home.
Although it has been gone for years, Vaughan said, the chamber still gets inquiries about it.
"We have people who just show up in Port Aransas and are absolutely stunned when they find out the ship's not there and has been gone for some time," she said. "After it left, it surprised me that it was as popular as it was."
If expanded gaming were to come back, she said, the city could benefit from an upscale facility with amenities the city currently does not offer.
"If it is presented in a manner or passed in a way that would be beneficial to the community and some restrictions on it ... We don't want to see Port Aransas turn into every other town," Vaughan said. "We're unique and different, a fun, funky, family destination,"