State Rep. files bill to allow casinos in TX

A Texas representative is doubling down on allowing casinos in the Lone Star State. 

“Things are going to change going forward. This state has to change. So we have to open up the discussion on gaming,” said Rep, Roland Gutierrez, D- San Antonio.      

Monday, Gutierrez filed House Bill 3043 calling for legislators to approve casinos throughout the state. 

“We're not asking for wide open casinos on every corner, we're asking for 13 destination resort casinos,” Gutierrez said.   

Even if the bill makes it past the House, Senate and Governor, each county would need to hold their own vote on the measure before a casino could move in.

Gutierrez is hoping the bill will help the state cash in on a piece of the casino pot and bring more sports events, like boxing, to Texas. 

“We're losing, anecdotally, $3 billion to every state around us, those four states around us that have gaming,” said Gutierrez.  

That’s money he said could be used for education, infrastructure and emergencies. 

“We need to come up with taxing revenue that doesn't come from raising folks' property taxes,” Gutierrez said. 

Rob Kohler, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission, said while those numbers may sound compelling, the payout would be far less significant. 

“So, for every dollar that's put in the machine, what's coming out to help is 1-2 cents. That's a very ineffective tax and, on top of that, we know that it's a very regressive tax,” said Kohler. 

Kohler pointed to studies that show people who receive government assistance tend to be all in on gambling more often than people in the upper class. 

“We're giving someone a helping hand, whether it be for breakfast or something like that, what sense would it make to take that same dollar away from those folks and have them put it in a slot machine?” Kohler said.  

However, Gutierrez said his bill wouldn't require the state to approve casinos. It would only allow each county to roll the dice with a separate election. 

“Let's let the people decide. Let's hear from them,” said Gutierrez.  

“Any vote, whether it's under the guise of a county vote or for that matter I'd argue fantasy sports trying to commercialize, that would also trigger federal gaming laws, which I don't think anybody wants 120 casinos throughout this state,” Kohler said.  

Kohler expects the bill will fold under pressure from state leaders, because, in the political game, the House doesn't always win.

“You're not going to expand casinos in this state, not with the governor that we have,” said Kohler.

Gutierrez said the $3 billion figure was determined by economists who counted the number of Texas license plates on cars parked outside of casinos and then divided the amount of money spent there by that percentage.