Proposal Would Allow Casino Gambling in San Antonio

After consistently failing during the 2000s, a new bill has been introduced in the Texas Legislature to legalize casino gambling in selected places in Texas, including San Antonio,  News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

State Rep. Harold Dutton's (D-Houston)  bill would allow five full casinos to open in Texas, one each in Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Gavleston, and Harris Counties.

The interesting twist, in Dutton's measure, which is a Constitutional Amendment, which would sidestep Gov. Abbott and go straight to the people for a vote, the state's proceeds from gambling would go directly to funding 'comprehensive Pre-K early childhood education programs statewide.' 

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political analyst at the University of Houston, says Dutton's bill has a shot.

"You've got a new crop of legislators who want to do new things and expand opportunities in Texas," Rottinghaus said.  "This may give them that opportunity."

Casino gambling bills were routinely filed in the Legislature in the 2000s, but were routinely shot down by religious groups, as well as organizations who work with problem gamblers.

But Rottinghaus says things have changed since then.  He points out that the U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed states to legalize sports betting, and casinos are not the 'slam dunk' profit makers that they used to be, with multiple bankruptcies in Atlantic City, for example, which leads to casinos being more of a destination resort than a 'gambling parlor.'

But he says it will still be a tough road for casino supporters.

"I don't foresee it to be in a very direct way, the way this legislation outlines it."

Dutton's proposal would set up a State Gambling Commission with the authority to award the license to the one company that would be allowed to operate a casino in each of the five counties.   It also calls for 'procedures for the monitoring and inspection of casino gaming operations as necessary to protect the public health, welfare, and safety.'

It also requires that voters in the five counties first approve, in a local election, the establishment of a casino in that county.

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