Pro: If done right, gambling can benefit Texas
By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Feb. 17, 2013 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.
While it's heads or tails whether Texas' lawmakers will approve legislation to expand gaming, one supporter thinks the odds are good.
As the face of expanded gambling in Texas, John Montford argued that Texans are smart enough to decide whether to allow expanded gambling this side of the border. Montford is chairman of Let Texans Decide and a former prosecutor, state lawmaker, Texas Tech chancellor and AT&T executive.
He wants a referendum to let Texans vote on a constitutional amendment on gaming.
"Everywhere I go, it's been received very well," Montford said.
His campaign initially supported expanded gaming on the state's 13 horse and greyhound tracks but said the group will support "whatever comes out of the Legislature" if it addresses extended gaming.
A pro-gambling study indicated that Texans spend $2.5 billion annually on gaming in Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico.
Let Texans Decide argues that figure shows Texans are already gaming in large numbers and represent as much as 85 percent of the patrons at casinos in Oklahoma.
The study projects expanded stateside gaming will contribute $8.5 billion in total economic activity and create 75,000 new jobs.
"There are no guarantees in any projection, whether you talk about state budget or revenues," Montford said. "I do believe it will stimulate significant investment in Texas and good-paying jobs."
Mike Sizemore, a Victoria businessman, said he has followed the issue for several years.
"Texans should really just vote on this," Sizemore said. "Polls show that people of both political parties are in support of it."
While gambling is a personal decision, he said, Texans who send significant amounts to neighboring states should have the option to place their bets here.
He said he believes the issue would pass overwhelming if brought to a vote.
"It'll happen one day. I personally don't think it will happen this session," he said.
He supports the issue with limitations that would keep it in specific areas and so Texans across the state benefit from the revenue.
"If done right, it can benefit the state," Sizemore said.