Let Texans Decide


Hearing on SJR 64 Shows Strong Support for Expanded Gaming

Wednesday, April 10, Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) held a hearing in the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce for SJR 64, which would authorize and regulate casino gaming and slot machines in Texas.  During the hearing, the committee listened to testimony from a representatives of the casino and horse racing industries, local elected officials, Indian tribe members, business community leaders, and constituents.

Sen. Carona emphasized that now is the time to vote on gaming in Texas. “This is the biggest single opportunity for economic development that I believe will come before the legislature within the next 10 to 20 years, we are not going to have a better opportunity than this.” Las Vegas Sands Corp Vice President of Government Relations, Andy Abboud, noted that “Texas is one of the last good opportunities left in the world. It should be done right.”

It’s no secret that thousands of Texans travel to Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico each day to gamble.  “Oklahoma is now the third largest generator of gaming revenue in the country, behind only Nevada and California. Well, let’s face it, we all know where that money’s coming from — Texas into Oklahoma,” said Sen. Carona.

Jason Velasco, a businessman from Round Rock recounted a commonality on his many trips to casinos to play poker. “I’m always surprised and amazed that the majority of players I’m sitting with at Winstar are from Texas. I simply would like the opportunity to vote to have legalized poker games in Texas,” he said.

One of the largest impacts neighboring casinos are having is against Texas’ horse racing industry. “[SJR 64 would give tracks] the ability to compete with tracks in surrounding states,” said Sam Houston Race Park President, Andrea Young. “Our tracks have gone downhill while tracks in surrounding states have prospered.” Should SJR64 pass, it “means thousands of jobs, a revitalized horse racing industry and most important of all, it means significant economic development.”

Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England spoke on how competing horse industries in neighbor states is negatively affecting his area, where Lone Star Park is located.  “I’ll tell you folks, it’s struggling right now because we’re just not able to attract [the larger purses]. It’s really had a negative effect on Grand Prairie. We know billions of dollars are going out of state to our neighbors. That doesn’t make very good business sense.”  Val Clark, who was representing Texas HORSE made an strong statement that the industry is “more than gambling, we’re a horse industry, we’re an Agra-Industry, we’re a family industry.”

Texans are ready to decide on expanded gaming at the polls, and there has been no better time than now.  As Jack Pratt, Executive Director of Texas Gaming Association, stated at the hearing, “Two-thirds of adults have gone out of state and taken their Texas money to gamble. There seems to be a fear to let them have the vote.”  Texans are smart enough to vote on this. Mr. Pratt added, “Texans love to gamble. They’re risk-takers.”

To listen to the full hearing, please click here and select “Apr 10 Senate Committee on Business and Commerce (Part 1).”