December 10, 2004
Video slots setback

The Governor's plan to overhaul school finance with help from gambling revenue took a hit yesterday, as Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that two of the three Indian tribes in the state are off limits according to federal law.

Abbott, in an opinion requested by Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, said the federal Johnson Act specifically bans slot machines from Indian lands unless exempted by another federal law, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Abbott said neither the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Livingston nor the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Tigua) tribe of El Paso is exempt under the gaming law or the Tribes of Texas Restoration Act.

"Because the Restoration Act does not explicitly exempt these two tribes from the Johnson Act, it appears they may not possess or use VLTs on their lands," Abbott said.

So that leaves dog and horse tracks (for now), which will have an as-yet unknown effect on the $1 to $1.4 billion annual revenue estimates from video slots. I'm sure this isn't the end of the story, but I do hope it's a difficult obstacle to overcome. I continue to believe that relying on something as ephemeral as gambling revenue to fund vital services like education is at best a fool's game.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

This puts Democrats in the cat bird's seat this session.

The wing-nuts in the Republican Party -- Frank Corte, who requested this AG's opinion being the wingiest and nuttiest of the lot -- are lining up against Perry's gambling proposals to fund public education. And the Republican leadership will need Democratic votes to pass any "solution" that doesn;t include a massive new tax bill.

That means Democrats can demand progress on a number of moderate public policies in return: CHIP funding, a college tuition freeze, rolling back homeowners insurance rates, teacher pay raises, no gay marriage amendment.

If Republicans want video slots to pay off their bug contributors, Democrats are going to have to get something -- a lot -- in return.

Posted by: Embree Timlin on December 10, 2004 2:11 PM

CHIP funds should be a slamdunk regardless. Sen. Kip Averitt (R, Waco) has already filed a bill to restore them.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2004 2:39 PM

Yup. The Democrats should be smart enough to know that the Republicans have already decided to restore CHIP and not accept that as part of the bargain.

Posted by: Embree Timlin on December 10, 2004 4:30 PM