The Texas House is set to consider a bill on Thursday that would enable bingo parlors to install devices that mimic slot machines. And amazingly, the author of the bill is attempting to pass it on the local and consent calendar, a process resembling a cattle auction designed for the passage of non-controversial legislation.

House Bill 1708 by State Rep. Rick Miller (R–Sugar Land) would allow bingo halls to offer progressive jackpots of up to $10,000 on “pull-tab bingo” games.

The bill only makes sense in the context of a controversial rule that was proposed but then tabled by the Lottery Commission that would have allowed bingo halls to use electronic machines to read “pull-tab bingo” cards. The cards, which resemble scratch off lottery tickets, are traditionally a side game played by bingo participants in which they can win small cash prizes.

Bingo lobbyists are continuing to push to implement the rule change in order to facilitate the slot machine-like devices.

By implementing slot-machine-like card readers and progressive jackpots, the pull-tab cards suddenly take the role of tokens for mock slot-machines. Although the players are technically using the machines to determine whether their pull-tab card is a winner, the addition of flashing lights and sounds, and more importantly a progressive overall jackpot, make the experience for the typical participant virtually identical to playing a slot machine.

Unless five members of the House object to the bill or one member chooses to debate the bill for longer than ten minutes, then HB 1708 will pass on Thursday with less than a few seconds consideration.

The Local and Consent calendar, which is designed for legislation that impacts a single member’s district or to which no member of the legislature could possibly object. However, in recent years with Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D–Houston) at the helm, it has been abused by members of the House to sometimes pass bills with major implications.

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.