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What to do with the Dome?

So now that we have the shiny and new Reliant Stadium for football, the Rodeo, and presumably monster truck rallies, what shall we do with the erstwhile Eighth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome? Well, State Rep. Ron Wilson has an idea: Turn it into a casino. All you need is a new state law, local voter approval, cooperation from the Commissioner’s Court, and $25 mil or so in development costs. Piece of cake.

County Judge Robert Eckels just chuckles, asking if “all the silliness” in Austin is to celebrate the upcoming holidays.

He said gambling would create a net loss for Houston, not a gain as it drains local dollars that would have been spent on other entertainment.

Eckels dismisses the dream that turning the Astrodome into a giant roulette wheel somehow will draw out-of-state visitors to Houston.

He argued that, bad budget times or not, Texas should have learned its lesson that the lottery wouldn’t solve all money problems forever, and pari-mutual horse racing is more a disappointment than a panacea.

“I would hope we can find a better use for the Astrodome,” Eckels said. “I certainly question the viability of a casino in the Houston market, and beyond that, the benefit of casino gambling for Texas.”

I hate having to agree with Robert Eckels, but I agree with Robert Eckels. People in Houston go across the border to Louisiana to gamble. A casino here would be a big white elephant.

I, of course, would like to see it turned into a rail depot, where the current downtown line would meet up with a line that follows US 90 to Sugar Land and maybe a line that goes along Loop 610. The casino is more likely to happen, but if Ron Wilson can dream big, then so can I.

UPDATE: Larry has some advice for Rep. Wilson.

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  1. R. Alex says:

    Kemah’s mouth has been watering for years at the prospect of legal gambling. I believe some real estate is being held on to out there solely for that prospect.

  2. Now a casino in Kemah I could see. That’s an actual entertainment (if not necessarily tourist) destination. But I just can’t see CasinoDome making sense.

  3. Good lord, why? Texans are gamblers, pure and simple. I would rather go to Houston than Vegas (or Shrevesport) any day. Hell, I’d rather go to downtown Dallas. I love the thought of sitting at a 5/10 hold ’em table for an hour or two and then DRIVING home to my own bed.

    Horse racing is definitely NOT a disappointment, not to the horseman, anyway. It was WAY oversold by the politicians, of course, and it can work, once we weed out the weak tracks, which is happening as we speak.

    “Rail depot”…just what we need, another dang train station. Not enough of those cluttering up the landscape, are there?

  4. But see, we already have casino gambling in easy driving distance – three hours away in Louisiana. I just don’t see anyone there coming here to gamble. Maybe I’m wrong.

    The rail depot I have in mind is for commuter rail. More parking, which is what some people want, will just make traffic at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (not to mention Texans games) even more awful. Of course, I fully expect that that’s what we’ll get. I’d prefer the casino.

  5. Keep dreaming, Charles… Commuter rail of the kind you are thinking has never worked in a low-density city.

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