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Texas Bill Would Permit Casinos on Reservations


Billions of gaming dollars leave Texas every year, boosting the economies of Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico.

“Texas is hemorrhaging money in the billions to our neighboring states,” said former democratic state Sen. John Montford, a spokesman for the casino advocacy group Let Texans Decide. “We are surrounded.”

According to recent economic studies, Texans spend $2.5 billion in a year at casinos across the state border.

Once again, state lawmakers are pushing to allow casinos to keep that money in the Lone Star State. Among them, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, has filed a bill to let Texans vote on permitting a restricted number of gaming facilities. If passed, horse and greyhound racetracks could add slot machines. Indian Nations and urban cities, as well as tourist attractions like the Gulf of Mexico, could build full-fledged casinos.

“Clearly we need the money,” Sen. Ellis has said, reportedThe Fort-Worth Star Telegram.

Opponents of legalizing casinos in Texas argue that while the number of casinos would initially be limited, they could not be contained. Rob Kohler, a consultant with the Christian Life Commission, claims the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act would prevent a cap. The state is home to three federally recognized Indian tribes: the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston; the Tigua Indians, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, in El Paso; and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas in Eagle Pass. The state has 13 racetracks, including Lone Star Park—of which the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma has a 49 percent stake—located in Grand Prairie, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Casino challengers also contend the bulk of gaming revenue would come from low-income residents.

Ellis, however, thinks flashy casinos will lure thick wallets. “I want those folks who can afford the high-dollar nipping and tucking and spend millions of dollars on clothes and hotel rooms. I want all those things that come with casino gaming,” he has said.

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