A Republican committee chairman appointed by Speaker Joe Straus recently told a group of casino executives and racetrack owners he wants the state to “roll the dice” on gambling.
Citing a “purely economic basis” for his support of legalized gambling, Rep. Todd Hunter (R – Corpus Christi) must have forgotten to also cite the growth of government that would come with it.
Rep. Hunter was quoted by the Corpus Christi Caller in support of gambling last week after speaking at a local forum held by public issues group, Texas Lyceum. The event was focused on discussing the value of legalizing gambling for the state.
What kind of “value” is that exactly?
For every dollar that comes into a state from gambling, three dollars would go out in the form of government expenses. That’s what Baylor economist Earl Grinols found, proving no matter how much “added revenue” gambling may add, a state will only see a net loss once it’s legalized.
Nevada is a perfect example of the false notion that gambling leads to economic prosperity. At the end of 2010, Nevada’s unemployment rate was as high as 14.9% and their budget shortfall was the highest in the nation. Not exactly a rousing endorsement for a “solution” promoted as a near magic bullet for budgetary or revenue woes.
Other states with a commercial gambling problem? New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware, Michigan… Not exactly the states you would think of as models of limited government.
When the 82nd Legislature was still in session, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility President Michael Sullivan issued two thorough breakdowns of the faulty logic behind the legalization of gambling. You can find them here (Don’t Bet Budget On Gambling) and here (Every Hand A Loser For Taxpayers). Fortunately, the legislature did not succumb to the siren song of gambling this session before the final gavel came down. If history (or comments from legislators like Rep. Hunter) are any indicator though, gambling will be proposed yet again as a budgetary cure-all come January 2013.
If Rep. Hunter is truly interested in representing the interests of his community, then he should renounce his support of gambling and the inevitable growth of government that comes with it.
I wouldn’t be doing Corpus Christi residents justice, however, if I didn’t point out a potential confounding factor in Rep. Hunter’s thought process. Speaker Straus appointed him as Chair of the House Calendars Committee, arguably one of the most powerful leadership positions outside of the speakership given their ability to dictate what legislation is taken up on the floor of the House and when. It’s openly known that Straus and his family stand to profit handsomely from legalizing gambling.
What this ultimately boils down to though, is that any fiscal woes we may encounter in the future will never be solved long-term by “additional revenue” like gambling. (Just look at how poorly the state lottery has actually funded public education.) Spending cuts are the only tried and true method to balancing the budget without growing our oversized government any larger. Rep. Hunter would be wise to take note.
Dustin Matocha is the Social Media Coordinator of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
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