The Issue Is: The case for casino gambling in Texas
HOUSTON - The odds of carving out a foothold for casino gambling in Texas have improved dramatically.
The Houston Democrat is again offering a proposal for a quartet of gaming resorts, each equipped with luxury hotels, restaurants, convention centers, and entertainment venues.
Texas Senator Carol Alvarado is leading the fight to give voters the final say.
SUGGESTED: Could fortunes be shifting for casino gambling in Texas?
Greg Groogan: "Senator Alvarado, casino gambling, why now?"
State Senator Carol Alvarado: I think it's long overdue. I think Texans are ready, their appetite it's wet it's ready and overwhelmingly we've seen polling that it would pass, but we have to get there. We know this is more than just gaming, this is about creating a destination, a resort.
Groogan: Is there an economic advantage?"
Alvarado: Tremendous. I can't think of anything we can do that would boost the economy the way this would. You are talking 185,000 direct and indirect, construction and once it's ongoing in the four casinos are up over 70,000 jobs. So, It would be a boost to our economy and diversify our economy. I think we should always be re-inventing ourselves. How can we diversify the Texas economy?c
Groogan: Senator, you have expressed frustration watching tens, hundreds of billions of dollars go out of the state to gaming elsewhere.
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Alvarado: We are talking about casinos that would have to have a hotel component, four or five-star hotels, restaurants and shops, venues for conferences and conventions. This is not setting up a blackjack table or putting a slot machine in a convenience store or a bar. It would be very limited; four casinos in Texas, and they would be heavily regulated. License holders would have to have a lot of money to put up some type of operation like that, that meets all that criteria.
Groogan: You guys (the Texas Legislature) are flush right now with money. Does that hurt that we have such a large surplus and the state can do without that revenue, at least in this biennium?
Alvarado: This has never been about, how can we stuff the state's coffers, so take that off the table. It's about the future of Texas and again continuing to look for ways to boost our economy to diversify our economy.
Groogan: Okay brass tacks. I would expect you were encouraged to hear Speaker Phelan voice some support. The Governor says he's willing to listen and at least not a "heck no" from Lt. Governor Patrick. How do you make this happen?
Alvarado: Making people comfortable that we are not approving gaming, but simply allowing Texans to vote.
Groogan: Scores of lobbyists pushing this, are they making, I guess, what would be persuasive arguments when they meet with lawmakers?
Alvarado: I think so. They all have their assignments and members they are talking to. As you know, some of the folks last session, they ran ads on TV. They had a really effective campaign awareness going on in the media, so that has certainly gotten attention. And you have other things in play, but we are staying in our lane. You have sports betting going on. It's already happening and I think we should legalize that. Just like in gaming, you have these private clubs. You have these game rooms that a lot of our constituents have complained about and trying to get them shut down because they invite a lot of traffic and negativity and crime activity in neighborhoods, so I think if we had these nicely regulated casinos that could put an end to a lot of that. I think Texans deserve the right to vote on it because they are traveling to so many other states nearby or further away to gamble. Texans love to gamble.