Gambling in Texas back before state lawmakers

Slot machines at racetracks, Vegas-style casinos being proposed

Published On: Nov 13 2012 05:45:21 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 13 2012 05:52:07 PM CST

Lawmakers will be asked to re-consider legalized gambling, such as slot machines at pari-mutuel racetracks and Vegas-style casinos, when the Texas Legislature convenes in January.

Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) introduced the proposals in Senate Joint Resolution 6, as means of generating state revenue.

Ellis is proposing a constitutional amendment to create the Texas Gaming Commission that would regulate casinos and slot machines by “a limited number” of licensed operators and Indian tribes.

Amending the Texas Constitution would involve a statewide vote, as well as local elections wherever casinos are proposed.

Dick Marcussen, a visitor to San Antonio, said casinos have brought big money to his home state.

“Keeps Iowa afloat, keeps them on their feet,” Marcussen said.

Nancy Hunt, executive director of the Paseo del Rio Association, said its members rejected the idea of putting casinos on the San Antonio River Walk four years ago.

However, now Hunt said, “I really don’t have any idea how the membership would react to this. It’s a very sensitive and complicated issue.”

She said there are strong feelings on both sides.

Jorge Rosales, a local resident, said he sees the benefit of casinos, but not on the River Walk.

“That kind of takes away from the River Walk vibe,” Rosales said.

Bryan Brown, CEO of Retama Park Entertainment Group, said bringing slot machines to pari-mutuel racetracks -- such as Retama -- may stand a better chance than casinos.

“That’s something that the legislators can get their arms around. They can understand,” Brown said.

He said gambling in Texas has failed in the past because of fears it would bring organized crime and prostitution.

“None of that has occurred, fortunately with horse racing and none of it will occur with slot machines coming to the tracks,” Brown said.

Bob Leal, who was betting on the races broadcast at Retama, said he supports gambling in Texas.

“Instead of going to Louisiana and Oklahoma, we need to keep it here in Texas,” Leal said.