April 30, 2009
Poker bill in trouble?

Well, that would suck.

Rep. Jose Menendez' bill to legalize poker in Texas is looking less than likely. Menendez' bill made it out of the House committee that oversees gambling issues. But he said unless he "can ratchet it back" -- limiting poker rooms to racetracks and Indian reservations, for example -- it's unlikely to get out of the influential House committee that sets the chamber's calendar, where it's been sitting for a couple of weeks. Menendez said if the bill gets to the House floor, it only needs a simple majority to pass. That said, the bill risks Gov. Rick Perry's veto if it expands the footprint of gaming in Texas.

"I'm still hopeful," Menendez said. "We've got a little time left."

If HB222 becomes a calendars casualty, it will be one of very many. That's just the way it goes in the Lege, even in years that are less rushed at the end than this. Still, I'll be sorry to see this die.

On the other hand, maybe it could be added as an amendment to the omnibus gambling resolution.

House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Chair Edmund Kuempel on Tuesday released a *draft* copy of the gambling constitutional amendment his committee is considering voting out.

The measure, if it has the support in the Legislature, would allow Texans to vote in November to authorize legalized gambling in Texas. Individual communities would also have to hold local option elections to open gambling in their areas.

The partner legislation lawmakers are considering could open the door to up to 17 casinos in Texas. It could also legalize slot machines at racetracks and gaming at state Indian reservations.

Kuempel's staff stresses that the language is still in draft form; changes aren't unlikely. The chairman has said the measures won't come up in the House unless he knows he's got 100 votes. Late last week, he was still about 10 away.

I still think 17 casinos may be too many, but that's not worth worrying about at this time. I don't know what the odds are of Kuempel getting to 100 votes, though I suppose adding to the bill is more likely to subtract support than add it. Still, if the Tigua casinos can be added to this resolution, maybe poker can as well. We'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 30, 2009 to That's our Lege
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