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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas Senators gamble law change

While lawmakers may not pass legislation to help legalize casino gambling in Texas this legislative session, senators proposed a resolution for a constitutional amendment to legalize gambling beyond horse track racing, bingo and state lottery.If Senate Joint Resolution 64 passed, it would establish the Texas Gaming Commission, which would authorize and regulate the operation of casino games and slot machines and establish 12 “destination resort” casinos, including ones in Galveston, South Padre Island and Dallas County. The resolution would also let Texas voters decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to expand gambling.Former state Sen. John Montford, who heads a pro-gambling group called “Let Texans Decide,” said he believes the issue should be a decision for the public.”We feel like the people of Texas are smart enough, educated enough and certainly savvy about what’s going on that they ought to be able to decide this issue for themselves,” Montford said in an Apr. 8 press conference.Texans spend about $3 billion each year to gamble in adjacent states, according to “Let Texans Decide.”The Texas Association of Business released a study Tuesday that stated expanding gaming in Texas would have an $11.8 billion annual impact in Texas.Sen. John Carona, a co-author of S.B. 64, said he wants to bring that money back to Texas.”A recent report shows Oklahoma is the largest generator of gaming revenue – we all know where that money is coming from,” Carona said at an April 8 press conference.Though previous measures to expand gambling in Texas have failed, supporters of S.B. 64 say the bill is worthwhile because of the economic benefits of gambling.Marina Pulley, senior radiological health engineering major, said she believes gambling should be legalized in Texas because of the added economic benefits.”I think as long as people are responsible about it, gambling should be legal,” Pulley said. “I have friends who go to Oklahoma or Louisiana to gamble, so why not bring gambling to Texas to get some of the economic benefits?”Because of the large bloc of Texas lawmakers who say gambling shouldn’t be legal and wouldn’t have direct economic impact, it’s acknowledged that the bill would be difficult to get the needed two-thirds vote in each chamber.”You never really know when a major issue like this will find a break or an opportunity to be passed,” Carona said. “As more and more states pass legalization or expanded gaming, with Texas being one of only 10 states left that don’t, I think the opportunity will present itself if not during this session then perhaps next or [during] a special session on school finance, should there be one.”Gabrielle Abilas, senior radiological health engineering major, said she doubts the bill could both pass legislature and have a majority of Texans vote in favor of this measure.”There is a reason it has been illegal in Texas for decades,” Avila said. “I think the people who really want to gamble will continue to go to neighboring states.”The University of Texas and the Texas Tribune conducted a survey in 2011 that found 56 percent of Texans surveyed wanted gambling to be legalized.Right now, the proposed amendment is still in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. If the bill passes committee it will go to a floor vote in the coming weeks before the end of the legislative session in May.

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