DALLAS – With Powerball sales surging to $15.5 million in Texas Wednesday, gambling proponents are hoping the state legislature will reconsider allowing casinos.
By 5 p.m. Wednesday, the state was generating $46,006 per minute on Powerball tickets alone. But does that excitement extend to onsite gambling, too?
Casino supporters think so and are going to state lawmakers again to try and let voters decide. Buying his Powerball ticket Anthony Dillard said if casinos came to Texas he'd play at them, too.
"I go to Louisiana, I go to Oklahoma so bring it here, I can stay at home," he said.
And a lot of money would stay in Texas, too. A group called Let Texans Decide made up of business, gaming and racetrack interests estimates Texans spend more than $2.5 billion annually at casinos and racetracks in neighboring states.
Let Texans Decide wants the legislature to allow voters to choose if the state constitution should be amended to allow casinos and casino type gambling at racetracks.
Speaking for Let Texans Decide, Andrea Young, President of Sam Houston Race Park, said, "And we know it's time to bring that money and those jobs back home. I think Texans are smart enough to decide this."
Although Young says polls show a majority of Texans back casino gambling at tracks, two thirds of the Texas House and Senate must approve to put the question to voters.
Gov. Rick Perry, who opposes casino gambling, would be bypassed. But talking with reporters in Irving, he suggested that doesn't matter.
"The idea that you're going to get 100 fiscal conservatives in the Texas House and the Texas Senate is just a bit of a stretch," he said.
That could always change if enough Texans pressure lawmakers. But Mike Hammonds, who got a Powerball ticket, won't be one of them.
"I really think a lot of people are going to get hooked on gambling, the wrong ones would be playing," he said.
Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) pre-filed a bill for the forthcoming legislative session starting in January that would send the matter to voters. Ellis has said he'd support setting aside some of the casino tax revenue for college scholarships for Texas students.