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It’s Time To Let Texans Decide If We Want Legalized Gambling in the Lone Star State

Texas is losing billions of dollars each year to surrounding states because it has not legalized casino gambling. While our horse and greyhound racetracks suffer from declining attendance and profits continue to drop, Texans are pouring millions of gambling dollars into casinos and other gaming activities in Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

In fact, in 2007, Texans spent a total of $2.8 billion on gaming and related activities in states surrounding Texas.  In Louisiana alone, Texans account for about 40 percent of that state’s annual revenue from gambling. And to the West in New Mexico, Texans make up over 32 percent of that state’s gaming revenue.It’s time for the Texas Legislature to let Texans decide whether they want to legalize gambling in the Lone Star State.

With a tough economy and plummeting state revenues affecting everything from how Texas educates its kids to how we take care of our neediest citizens, it’s time to stop the export of Texas dollars to surrounding states and  keep that money in our own pocketbooks.

Instead of fighting each other, it is time for gambling interests to work together and let Texas cash in on Texas gamblers instead of the riverboats, casinos, horse and dog racing tracks in the surrounding states. In short it is time to BET IN TEXAS.

There has never been a better opportunity than now to expand gambling opportunities in Texas. State officials recently said they expected a deficit for the 2011-2012 budget cycle of $10 to 15 billion but now that figure has grown to as high as $18 billion – and it could get much bigger. State agencies have made budget cuts but that will only generate about $1.2 billion in savings, not nearly enough to solve the looming financial crisis.

Gambling supporters estimate that 12 state-licensed casinos would pull in $3 billion to $4.5 billion per year in state and local tax money.  Just putting slot machines in existing greyhound and horse tracks could bring in $1.8 billion per year, according to backers of racinos in Texas.

Whatever the final figure, one thing is clear: Texans should have the right to determine their own destiny when it comes to gaming.  Whether they choose 12 resort-style casinos, opening up race tracks to slot machines, OK’ing 8-liners in convenience stores or reopening Texas’ three Indian reservations casinos, the people should have the right to make that decision.

For Texas, the stakes are high. We are not only losing hard gambling dollars to other states but the tax revenues and jobs they produce that should stay in Texas.

There is a solution. Let Texans vote on a constitutional amendment that would expand legalized gaming in Texas.  It’s the right thing to do and it will benefit all of Texas.


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