EVEN AS CHARGES FLY OVER the awarding of state lottery contracts, the next battle over gambling is taking shape for the 1993 legislative session. This time the issue will be casinos—on riverboats and on land. Lloyd Criss, a former legislator from La Marque, in Galveston County, who is now the managing partner of a group called Legislative Consultants, is pushing the idea of riverboat gambling in a newsletter. Prominently mentioned in the letter is Jack Pratt, the chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Pratt Hotel Corporation, which owns casinos in Atlantic City and San Juan. Pratt’s company has a riverboat license in Illinois and is currently seeking one in Louisiana, which approved riverboat gambling last year. (Pratt could not be reached to confirm whether he intends to pursue riverboat gambling in Texas.)
The pressure for gambling in Texas comes from tourist interests who think the state will lose business to Louisiana. In addition to riverboats in New Orleans, land-based casinos on Indian reservations are on the drawing boards. Grand Casinos of Louisiana, a subsidiary of publicly owned Grand Casino, Inc., of Plymouth, Minnesota, has signed a management contract with two Louisiana tribes to operate casinos. One would be located in Marksville, between Lafayette and Alexandria would be in Kinder, just fifty miles east of the Texas border, poised to draw from the Houston area. First, however, Grand Casino must negotiate a compact with the state of Louisiana. As everyone knows, Louisiana politics can be very—how does one put this?—interesting, especially since Governor Edwin Edwards wants a casino on land in New Orleans.
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS may not be number one in football anymore, but it remains number one in political intrigue. The recent resignation of Dr. Hans Mark as chancellor of the UT System sets up a clash over his successor—and over the future of UT-Austin president William Cunningham—that involves not only the Board of Regents but also Ann Richards. The governor is committed to putting more women and minorities in positions of power and prestige. But Richards won’t have control of the regents until the next round of appointments, in early 1993; until then, regents named by Republican Bill Clements enjoy a 6—3 advantage.
One name that has surfaced as Mark’s replacement is Cunningham, who has experience in dealing with the Legislature. But Cunningham, a former business school dean, is hardly Ann Richards’ type. Some UT folks are high on Kern Wildenthal, the president of UT’s Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who has worked funding miracles with the Legislature and big donors like Harold Simmons and Ross Perot. Speculation on Cunningham’s possible successor as president centers on law school dean Mark Yudof, a public school finance expert relied upon by legislators on both sides of the issue. Another leading contender—for both top jobs—is UT—El Paso president Diana Natalicio.
No doubt the Republican regents would like to name both the next chancellor and the next president while they still have the votes. But UT can hardly afford to snub Richards at a time when its hefty budget is under attack in the courts and in the Legislature. Like it or not, the regents are going to have to come to some sort of accommodation with the governor.
HOW DOES JOE JAMAIL DO IT? The Houston plaintiff’s lawyer just won another huge jury award: $562 million for a Galveston bank and investment fund that are part of the prominent Kempner family empire. The defendants included the MiniScribe Corporation, a computer company accused of falsifying financial statements, and the big accounting firm of Coopers and Lybrand. Here is Jamail in action: While an opposing lawyer was questioning a witness about the plaintiffs’ demand that defendants pay all attorneys’ fees, Jamail interrupted to say, with the jury hanging on every word, that he planned to donate most of his fees to local charities. The defense asked for a mistrial—to no avail.