Last Friday, the Morning News’ Trailblazers blog questioned whether Speaker Straus had stacked the odds in favor of gambling through his appointments to Licensing & Administrati. Straus’s support of gambling had been an issue in the speaker’s race: [O]f the nine House members appointed to the Licensing & Administrative Prodedures committee, which oversees gambling legislation, only two told the News that they would definitely not support any expansion. Others on the committee supported gambling, were undecided or didn’t respond. The reason this is an issue, as most readers know, is that Straus’s family has been involved in the horseracing business for decades and stands to gain handsomely if slot machines are allowed at racetracks. But there is another consideration. In this budget crisis, expanded gambling is a possible source of new revenue. Any speaker who want more funding for schools, health care, and other state services would want to keep his options open. If he appoints a committee that is hostile to gambling, he shuts the door on that option. Just as is the case with Appropriations, the first hurdle is to get the bill out of committee. Unless a speaker is virulently anti-gambling, he is not going to appoint a committee that would kill the bill and prevent the state from getting the benefit of a $1 billion a year source of revenue.
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