HOUSTON -- On this day at Sam Houston Race Park, the action wasn’t on the track but on the television monitors inside. Some lawmakers were “wagering” there will soon be another kind of action on the floor: casino gambling.
“Well, I’m originally from Louisiana, and we really appreciate all the money Texas donates to us at the casinos,” said horse racing fan Rusty Giroir.
It is estimated Texans spend $3 billion a year to gamble in Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The proposal to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to allow casino gambling comes from state Senator John Carona (R-Dallas). He says a new survey indicates 80 percent of Texans feel they ought to have the final say on the matter.
“This would result in the development of destination resort casinos and result in opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike,” said Sen. Carona.
The measure would bring 21 casinos to Texas, and unlike previous proposals, the casino industry and the horse racing industry are both onboard. Sam Houston Race Park would be among the first gambling operations to go up.
“This means thousands of jobs, a revitalized horse racing industry and most important of all, it means significant economic development,” said Sam Houston Race Park general manager Andrea Young.
Critics argue it also means something else.
“You won’t hear the stories about the dad who ran off, stole mom’s credit card, ran up $3,000 and mortgaged the house,” said Rob Kohler, of the Christian Life Commission. That’s not stuff someone’s going to come out and say, ‘Yeah, that happened to me.’”
Supporters of the measure argue that the proposal should at least be put it to a vote.
“Now if we can’t get it passed by the public, and the public speaks, that’s good,” said Giroir.
He said let the chips fall where they may.