After another state agency tried to abuse their legislative authority, Gov. Greg Abbott is reminding the state’s lottery commission to not to exceed their authority and illegally expand gambling in Texas.

The state constitution forbids the expansion of gambling without approval by Texas voters.

In a letter Monday to Texas Lottery Commission Chairman J. Winston Krause, Abbott admonished the state agency to take “extreme caution” to avoid any illegal or unconstitutional expansion of gambling. Abbott wrote:

“In light of the continuous external pressures to expand the footprint of gaming in Texas, it is timely and necessary that I provide direction on prohibiting all such expansions without express authorization and direction by the Texas Legislature – and in some cases the consent of the citizens through constitutional amendment. … State laws on gaming are to be viewed strictly as prohibitive of any expansion of gambling. This statutory framework is properly intentioned to protect our citizens, and I support it wholeheartedly.”

The letter comes after staff of the Lottery Commission recently made a “fact finding” trip to Delaware to expand new forms of gambling administered in that state, specifically regulated sports betting and fantasy sports betting. Similarly, last year the Lottery Commission explored options to allow slot machine-like devices at Texas bingo halls before tabling the issue and acknowledging opposition on the issue from the legislature.

The Texas Racing Commission, however, thumbed its nose at both the state constitution and the legislature in its attempt to install slot machines at Texas’ horse racing tracks.

The agency is currently being funded 90 days at a time as commissioners continue their standoff with the legislators who control the state’s purse. The Racing Commission is currently appealing a ruling from a Travis County judge that its actions were illegal.

If the stand-off persists, the Racing Commission may be completely shut down and all horse racing in Texas may end for a two year period. Abbott recently replaced two of three racing commissioners up for reappointment. It is assumed the new commissioners will act to reverse the illegal actions previously taken by the commission.

Major gambling interests have become desperate in recent years to find ways to illegally and unconstitutionally circumvent the power of the people and the legislature to decide what types of gambling will be allowed in Texas. Abbott, however, is moving to stop the bureaucrats’ flirtation with illegal gambling expansion.

In his letter, Abbott instructed the Lottery Commission’s Krause to “strictly enforce” his directive amongst lottery commission staff and to deny requests for future trips to “gather information about gaming opportunities that are prohibited in Texas.”

The supremacy of the people’s representatives in the legislature and the congress over self-interested bureaucrats is one of the most pressing issues of our day. It is great to see Gov. Abbott acting to rein-in out-of-control bureaucrats and reassert the supremacy of our constitutional structure.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.