Expect to hear lots of happy-talk about free money to fund bloated bureaucracies when the legislature meets. A big push for expanded gambling is coming, but it has nothing to do with free markets or keeping taxes low. It just means more money flowing from your wallet to state government.

Austin lobbyist Bill Miller told the Associated Press in an article today that lawmakers should use the push by school districts for more money as the excuse to hand out crony-based gambling licenses. “It’s an opportunity… A golden one, actually.”

Perhaps an opportunity for politically-connected moguls wanting state-enforced monopolies, and certainly for lobbyists helping them navigate the halls of the Capitol… But it will be a disaster for taxpayers.

Look at, literally, every state that has expanded gambling for the purposes of bringing in new revenues. The efforts have failed. From Oklahoma and Louisiana to Michigan and Illinois, New Jersey to Nevada, states with expanded gambling have worse budget woes than Texas. Much, much worse.

And they’ve also seen their tax burdens rise after bringing the heavily-regulated, crony-based gambling to their states.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has loudly proclaimed his intentions to have a “conservative session” in 2013. That precludes the kind of crony-gambling bills considered by some in the lobby and the legislature. Mr. Dewhurst has said he wants Texas to be “the most fiscally and socially conservative state in the country.”

One way to fail in that goal is by expanding gambling the way lobbyists and cronies envision it.

Even some Lone Star State libertarians are being pulled into the fray with the allure of a convenient vice. Good for them, but bad for the free market system they allegedly cherish.

The proposals coming down the pike have absolutely nothing to do with the free market, and everything to do with making sure friends of gambling investor Speaker Joe Straus and his family get rich off state-authorized and state-enforced monopolies. It’s cronyism at its worst.

Taxpayers will be left to pick up the cost of additional law enforcement, new regulatory schemes, and — of course — the inevitable expansion of social welfare services. The last is undeniable. Every state that expands the footprint of gambling sees more people, not fewer, going on the public dole.

As for Mr. Miller’s assertion that the bureaucracy-instigated lawsuit demanding more money from the state is a ‘golden opportunity,’ we would do wise to remember that the state’s lottery was sold in the early 1990s as a way to fund Texas schools. It’s been a failure, total and complete. The Austin American Statesman reported in 2010 that lottery proceeds “barely cover three days” of school operations.

The Texas GOP platform and the Dallas County NAACP this year have both called for the elimination of the lottery.

Some like to call these state-monopoly gambling schemes (lotteries, “racinos” and casinos) a tax on people who can’t do math. (Hint: the house, and its investors, don’t lose.) While the poor are disproportionately harmed by expanded gambling, taxpayers are always left making good on the unrealized promises of lucre for the state treasury.

Expanding the footprint of gambling in Texas is all about the money… Money for lobbyists, and money for politically connected gambling investors. And, of course, more money flowing directly from the taxpayers into bloated bureaucracies.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."