Be Careful What You Ask For

They’re baaack! The same crowd that gave us Scratch Offs is two-stepping again. Advocates for expanding gambling have been working behind the scenes with assorted RINOs and Democrats for years, formulating a grand strategy to expand, expand, expand.  Unfortunately, money alone isn’t enough to make their dreams come true.  Expanding gambling will require a change to the state’s constitution. They need a two-thirds majority vote in the both houses of the legislature to put a referendum before the voters. The wolves are willing, but many of them have constituents who would end their public careers if they supported it.  What to do, what to do?

For years now, we’ve been hearing from people like Joe Straus that we can’t cut our way to prosperity.  They don’t want to raise taxes, they tell us, but we must have more revenue.  This was the laying of the foundation, if you will. Conservative activists understood the meaning behind the rhetoric, and have been bracing for an extremely well funded assault. It’s here: Let Texans Decide is a milk-and-honey propaganda campaign designed to sell expanded gambling to Texas voters.

First of all, let’s call it what it is: gambling.  They call it gaming because it sounds better.  Monopoly is a game.  Checkers is a game.  To call gambling a game is like calling a tiger a kitty-cat.

Gambling supporters will soon be spending millions of dollars to sell Texans on the idea of expanded gambling.  How will they do it?  For starters, look at what they’re calling it: “Let Texans Decide.” How could anyone oppose that?  Pro-gambling websites are full of reminders that Texans don’t like nanny-state government, and should be able to make up their own minds, as though that were being denied to us somehow.  When state office candidates run on an anti-expanded-gambling platform, you can vote for them or against them.  We are quite able to make our wishes known about the bane of gambling, and don’t let anyone convince you that we don’t.

Let’s take a look at what Let Texans Decide says.

1. Casinos at racetracks would add $8.5 billion in economic growth statewide.

I don’t know where these numbers come from, but a very educated guess would be “economic studies” paid for by gambling interests.  It is very likely that an unbiased study would show much lower numbers. Only 2% of gambled money is taxable.  The rest goes to the casino/slot machine owners and the prize pool. What is certain is that legalized/expanded gambling never lives up to its promises.  Remember how the lottery was going to pay for education? Whatever happened with that?  Other states have added slots to save their failing horse tracks, called racinos, but decline in interest continued unabated and the horse tracks closed anyway.

2. Texans already gamble outside our borders – according to a 2010 study, 90% of the customers at casinos on the Texas-Oklahoma border are Texans.

This information is disseminated to make you think that people who leave Texas to gamble want it in their backyard so they don’t have to drive so far. Some Texans oppose gambling outright in any form, anywhere, based on religious or other reasons.  Most have nothing against it whether they partake or not, but they understand that it comes with baggage that they don’t want to deal with, and they see having to drive out of state as a small price to pay. I have heard people say this.

3. Casinos at racetracks in Texas could generate an estimated $1 billion annually in tax revenue.

All states trying to convince their voters that gambling is good use this same “$1 billion” number.  It too is a highly questionable figure. Promises, promises . . . if gambling is so lucrative for states, why is Nevada in such dire economic straits?  One reason why is that they keep electing Dirty Harry Reid, but it’s not realistic to put all the blame on him alone. Something else is afoot.

Let Texans Decide also tells us that expanded gambling will add thousands of jobs to our state.  This is true.  Expanded gambling will mean more government.  The State will have to hire more workers to oversee it, and those workers will have to be paid salaries, medical benefits, and pensions.  Also, there will be a large increase in law enforcement & prison guard positions because where gambling goes, crime follows.

Something else you won’t find on Let Texans Decide is the fact that gambling hurts cities.  Wherever there are casinos, the areas immediately surrounding them deteriorates.  Companies don’t like to be located in slums, so they either move away, or avoid going there altogether. Of the five U.S. cities hit hardest by the recession, four were in gambling states, and two [were] in Nevada.

Did you know that much of the lottery revenue in Texas comes from the same areas with the highest rates of people on public assistance?   It’s less than comforting to think that the lottery creates extra need in districts that use need as political clout to increase taxpayer assistance. The Dallas chapter of the NAACP recently voted unanimously to eliminate the lottery.

Members of the nation’s oldest civil rights group [the NAACP] say they are frustrated by poor and minority Texans spending their money on [lottery] tickets, rather than necessities such as rent or health insurance — Ft Worth Star Telegram.

I believe that if a referendum were held today, gambling would lose.  But after months of disinformation on television, billboards, newspapers, the Internet, etc., gambling interests might be able to convince a majority of Texans to support it.  To quote Vladimir Lenin, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”   Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of people who will say almost anything to open the lucrative floodgates of gambling.  The same people who sold us the lottery with solemn promises of plentiful revenue in the early 90s are making the same promises again.  They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.

Jan Shedd
Kaufman County Tea Party

 

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