As Oklahoma Rakes in Cash, Why Is Texas Stubborn About Gambling?
I recently spent a weekend in Oklahoma to attend a funeral. As my dearly departed loved one would have wanted, we put the "fun" in funeral by spending part of our trip at the casino. It was also a logistical necessity as the casino was the only decent hotel anywhere near where the funeral was to be held.
My family and I caught up with each other, cheered each other on, and remembered the good times. It took a tremendous amount of stress and sorrow off our backs. Certainly, I'll remember saying goodbye to one, but I'll also remember saying "see you soon" to many.
There were several of us staying at the hotel, eating food at the hotel, and sinking $20s into the slots. It was hundreds of Texas dollars going into Oklahoma machines. In this instance, it would have been Oklahoma that got our money no matter what, but what if it had been the other way around? No Oklahomans are spending any gambling dollars in Texas, because virtually no one is. Texas has some of the strictest laws against gambling in the U.S., even though most Texans support legalized gambling. What gives?
Under Texas law, (Penal Code §47.02) gambling is considered a criminal offense if someone:
- makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest
- makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or
- plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.
The only exceptions are charity bingo, charity raffles and sports charity raffles. But shouldn't Native American tribes also be an exception?
The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino has been legally embattled with the State of Texas, but has managed to stay in business, fighting tooth and nail to do so. Speaking Rock was closed by the state even though a subsequent ruling determined it never should have been. It's currently operating as an entertainment center, but working on a return to casino gaming.
Tons of money and effort has been spent to make gambling in Texas legal, but those efforts have fallen flat despite Texans wanting legal casino gambling. What it really comes down to is the support of just a very few people in power:
A bill to legalize casinos would require the approval of Gov. Greg Abbott. His previous statements on the issue signal that may be unlikely.
To be fair, it's possible that Gov. Abbott has warmed to casino gambling since his prior condemnation of it. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has said he believes, "gambling legislation will probably be unsuccessful due to the issue being fraught with 'competing interests.'"
What on earth are those "competing interests"?
Regardless, if the issue is ever successfully brought to a vote by Texans, it wouldn't need gubernatorial support. Based on polls, it would likely pass. Here's hoping the right person in power does the right thing for our Texas economy, and brings gambling legislation to a vote.