Texas Legislature Awash In Gambling Bills

Numerous Texas lawmakers have sponsored a variety of gambling bills that have little chance of becoming law, due to a budget surplus and conservative leanings. One measure that eventually could see the light of day is a constitutional amendment allowing pro sports teams to offer charitable raffles at their events.

With the state budget in surplus, arguments that Texas is losing billions of dollars a year in gambling revenue to Louisiana and Oklahoma are not making an impression. Still, lawmakers are floating a variety of expanded gambling bills—though few have any chance of passage. Boyd Gaming lobbyist Robert Floyd said, “The prospects aren’t too bright. It’s late. And because of the conservative nature of the legislature, an expansion of gambling is not likely for this session.”

State Rep. Richard Raymond proposed a measure to allow local elections on the use of gaming machines called eight-liners.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s bill would change the state constitution to let the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta tribes have all forms of gaming and pay 5 percent of the proceeds to the state. Currently only the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe offers Class II, slot-like machines at its 100,000 square foot Eagle Pass casino. State Rep. Poncho Nevarez has sponsored a measure to allow the Kickapoos to negotiate an agreement with the state for true slot machines.

In another committee, state Rep. Carol Alvarado’s bill would create a Texas gaming commission and allow casino gambling throughout the state and on American Indian land.

State Rep. Joe Deshotel filed a bill to allow nine commercial casinos in coastal or near-coastal counties. The law would levy an 18 percent tax on gambling revenue, with the money dedicated to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which is broke despite high premiums.

The one bill that has a chance of becoming law is state Rep. Charlie Geren’s constitutional amendment, recently approved by the House, to let the state’s 10 professional sports teams hold raffles at their events to raise money for their charitable foundations. Half the money raised would be given to a single winner. No more than 10 percent of a raffle’s gross receipts would be dedicated to expenses, and the foundations could deduct from ticket sales “reasonable” costs of promoting and administering the raffles. The remainder would go to payouts and charities.

Geren said the raffles would not be an expansion of gambling. “We are not expanding gambling, and there won’t be any slot machines,” he said.

If approved by the Senate and signed by Governor Greg Abbott, the proposal must be approved by Texas voters. Supporters hope to start offering raffles early next year. Companion legislation by state Senator Troy Fraser has cleared a Senate committee and is awaiting action by the full Senate.