The topic of legalizing casino gambling has been a hot one among Texans for literally decades, yet year after year Texas legislation either ignores it or votes against it.
One arguement against it is that there are not enough Texans interested in gambling. Consider the stats on just how many people reside in Texas as of the 2009 Census according to Wikipedia:
- Houston – largest city in Texas, the fourth largest city in the United States, and the sixth largest metropolitan area in the United States. Population? 2.3 million.
- San Antonio – second largest city in Texas, seventh largest city in the United States, and 28th largest metropolitan area. Population? 1.4 million.
- Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington Metroplex – Dallas is a little bit funky when it comes to trying to nail down its size, because it is a sprawling area and encompasses 12 counties. Still, the metropolitan area is the largest in Texas and the fourth largest in the US. Population? 6 million.
Combine the three largest cities with the rest of Texas and you get roughly 24 million people. Surely a few of them like to gamble. Surely enough of them currently gamble illegally. In fact, more than a few, enough that it would generate a tremendous amount of revenue for the state. By some estimates, 2 billion dollars a year.
Galveston, a small town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, has long been a tourist destination for many. In 2008 it was literally flattened by hurricane Ike and is still struggling to rebuild, and many residents lost their businesses and were forced to move elsewhere. Building a casino or two would revive the town by creating jobs and businesses. This is just an example that can be repeated for other small towns in Texas that were once thriving but were hurt either because of the oil bust or other economic downturns.
How hypocritical is the fact that the following forms of gambling are legal in Texas?
- Lottery, which includes games exclusively in the State of Texas and participation in multi-state lotteries
- Horse racing
- Dog racing
The horse track and a lot of bingo halls allow children in the venues. Alcohol is served at the tracks and some bingo halls as well. Casinos only allow persons over the age of 21 to enter.
Finally, we have a Texas-born businessman named Tilman Fertitta who is CEO of a company called Landry's Restaurants. He has a huge presence in Houston and in other parts of the country. His company currently owns the Golden Nugget located in downtown Las Vegas, and other members of his family are also casino owners. So Texas already has an in-house consultant who knows the casino business and would be more than willing to jump-start the process!
Why Gambling Will NEVER Be Legal in Texas
Some people may think it is a moral issue. Texas is a Republican state and is very conservative, and it is this majority that blocks the issue and never puts it on the ballot for the voters to decide. But that's not the reason.
Some may think it's a social issue. Gambling can be very addictive. It has ruined marriages and families, caused financial ruin, and in extreme cases has caused deaths. Games of chance are very foolish; they only cause temporary but expensive pleasure most of the time. (Of course so is alcohol and nicotine, two other vices just as addictive but legal everywhere!) Some argue that building casinos will increase crime rate and prostitution, and just generally do more harm than good. The revenue generated would only be used to combat the problems that gambling brings. But that is also not the reason it's illegal.
So why not, then?
Three words: Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
These are three of the four states that border Texas that offer legalized gambling and poker. So if Texans want to legally gamble for money, they can drive or take one of the casino's buses (that operate in Texas) to one of these states.
These 3 states are not going to let all of that money go so easily. They are nowhere near as large or as highly populated as Texas, especially in the border towns, so if gambling was legalized it is very possible that most of them would suffer. The many casinos that exist on the border between them and Texas know this, they have lobbyists, and they watch Texas politics very closely.
The great state of Texas and its citizens need to consider long and hard legalizing casino gambling. People who gamble do it whether it is legal or not; the state might as well acknowledge that and control it and reap the benefits of it. If the bill passes, then they need to be responsible when it comes to governing it. They can take a look at other states that have implemented it and learn lessons on what and what not to do. If this can happen, everyone will benefit.