It appears that another session is going to come and go without any movement on gambling legislation. The two sides–racetracks and casinos—cannot seem to agree on a strategy to bring gambling to Texas. The argument for gambling, as most readers know, is that Texas, by not embracing gambling, is losing billions of dollars is potential revenue to border-state casinos in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The latest development is a restoration of the original idea, which is legalizing slot machines, also known as video lottery terminals, at racetracks. My reaction is: Who cares? I can’t think of anything more depressing than a giant room filled with slots and smoke, with none of the amenities that come with full-scale casinos. The racetracks say they need gambling to survive (not that racing isn’t gambling too). It’s all just talk, because the votes have never been there to legalize gambling.
I see no virtue in allowing slots at racetracks. It provides low-level entertainment without any accompanying economic development. Now, if the state proposed auctioning off licenses for full-scale casinos, that would be different. It would put money in the state treasury and it would engender momentum for destination resorts. But the tracks and the casinos have the ability to checkmate the other, and so nothing will get done. The main beneficiary of another failure of gambling legislation is Joe Straus, who won’t have to worry about getting into a sticky ethical situation because of his family’s longtime involvement in racing.