March 31, 2005
State Democratic leaders denounce gambling


"We want to take gambling off the table this session," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He was joined by Reps. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, and Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

Gallego, chairman of the House's Mexican American Caucus, said he thinks most of the House's 63 Democrats and enough members of the Republican majority will join to kill any gambling proposal.


The Texas Republican Party is on record as strongly against gambling. State GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser is scheduled to speak at an anti-gambling rally at the Capitol today.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who proposed video slot machines as a source of education funding last year, seems to have backed away from that option this session.

And Speaker Tom Craddick has said he doesn't know how gambling will fare in the House.

But there has been speculation that Republicans may seek a House vote on gambling as a source of additional funds for public schools. With such a move, some observers have noted, Republicans could put some of the blame for gambling on Democrats, who have been pressing for more education funding.

The anti-gambling comments by the Democratic leaders seemed designed to address that speculation.

"We can't afford to let the Legislature roll the dice with our children's future," Gallego said.

In a related development, Texas Democratic Chairman Charles Soechting said he will ask the State Democratic Executive Committee to pass a resolution opposing the expansion of gambling in Texas.

Thank goodness. Hotshot Casey was the one who first brought up the idea of the Democrats getting played on gambling, a not-unreasonable idea since Democratic legislators like Speaker Pro Tem Sylvester Turner have been the ones introducing the legislation this session.

It's easy to see what the allure of gambling is for states that don't have the will or the wherewithal to deal with their finances in an honest manner, but let's keep a few things in mind here. One is that in our case, neighboring states like Louisiana are not going to just let us take their revenue away without a fight. Whatever we think the state can rake in from "racinos" and slot machines is at least one part wishful because of that. Two, money spent on gambling is money that for the most part would have been spent on other activities, like movies or sporting events or trips to the beach. The cost to other businesses is at best understated if not outright ignored in the rosy projections. Finally, an expansion in legalized gambling will be a huge windfall for a few firms, and boy do they know it. They have an equally huge incentive to do whatever it takes to make sure they get a piece of than pie. All of this, without even mentioning the social costs of compulsive gambling, is more than enough to stand firm against it. My applause to Reps. Dunnam, Gallego, and Coleman, along with Chairman Soechting, for getting it right.

UPDATE: In the Pink reports from the anti-gambling rallies at the Capitol.

UPDATE: PinkDome reminds us of Governor Perry's big ol' flipflop on the gambling issue.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 31, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack