Sneaky, sneaky. Though the bill filing deadline has passed and the real work of session is in full swing, Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) managed to get permission to file SJR 64, a constitutional amendment to create the Texas Gaming Commission and authorizing casino gaming.
Read the first part of the caption: Proposing a constitutional amendment providing immediate additional revenue for the state budget. Under the guise of gaining more money for the state, this amendment, if passed in the legislature and then approved by voters in November, would create the biggest boondoggle Texas has seen since the state lottery. Make no mistake, expanding the gambling footprint in Texas will save the state no money, and it will ultimately harm the economy.
Polling phone calls have been made around the state by the seemingly innocuous group “Let Texans Decide,” asking opinions about whether Texans should get to vote on expanding gambling in Texas. Who is going to say no to letting the people have a vote, after all? Shamefully, they don’t ask the right question – it isn’t about whether or not Texans should get to vote on the legal right to gamble. It’s about whether or not the state should fund and regulate gambling. It isn’t about choice. It’s about the fundamental role of government. The Legislature needs the voters to approve it, not only to fulfill the constitutional requirement, but to pass the buck when the program goes south. When it ends up costing the state and local governments millions more in law enforcement and bureaucracy, all the Legislature will do is point to the people. You wanted this, they’ll say, and now you have to pay for it.
SJR 64 was filed and immediately read on the Senate floor and referred to the Business and Commerce Committee. All of this happened quickly, as though a finger was held to the wind and the direction deemed encouraging. That’s worrisome – if there was nothing wrong with this proposal, why should it be added to the pile of business at this late date? Not to mention, Senator Carona’s own party is nothing short of explicit in it’s opposition to gambling expansion:
We oppose the expansion of legalized gambling and encourage the repeal of the Texas State lottery. We oppose dedicating any government revenue from gambling to create or expand any government program. (Republican Party of Texas 2012 Platform, Page 11)
We oppose gambling and gambling expansion as a means of financing government. (Republican Party of Texas 2012 Platform, Page 17)
So, gut-check time. Even in the caption for the bill, SJR 64 violates the principles of the senator’s own party, and the lieutenant governor’s, and the majority of their colleagues in the Texas Legislature. This bill should not have entered the record at all. Now that it has, it should be given no further quarter.