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Houston State Sen. Rodney Ellis introduces bill to expand Texas' gambling laws

Friday, February 15, 2013

There's a new push to bring casino gambling to Texas. The bill, which was introduced by a Houston lawmaker, would expand current gambling laws. But some say it should go even farther.

Recent gambling bills have not gained any traction in the legislature, and this one may also be a long shot. But supporters say it would make some much-needed money for infrastructure and education.

We already gamble in Texas through the lotto, bingo, horse racing and dog racing. Now Houston State Sen. Rodney Ellis wants to expand gaming to include Vegas-style casinos in busy urban areas. He wants to allow for poker at race tracks, Indian reservations, bingo halls and other venues, but the proposal getting mixed reviews.

"I know that gambling is an addiction for many people. I think it preys upon that and brings all other types of activity and trade with it that I don't want here," Houston resident Laura Nagle said.

Andrea Young, the president of the Sam Houston Race Park, is pushing for the bill and would like to add table-style games and slot machines to complement betting on their horse races.

"We haven't been able -- because the government tells us we can't -- to innovate our business in 20 years. Every state around us has; 46 states across the country have," Young said. "This isn't new. This isn't unproven. We just want to compete with what's really going on in this country."

Sen. Ellis believes at least $2 billion is leaving Texas when others travel to surrounding states to gamble.

"Clearly we need money in Texas, and Texans are already generating significan't revenues from gambling," Ellis said. "But they are giving that revenue to the coffers of the state of Louisiana and New Mexico and I want it here."

In the proposed legislation, the idea to gamble more would be put before Texas voters to ultimately decide.

"We're the community, we're the citizens. We have the choice of whether we want to spend our money here or go to Louisiana," Houston resident Robin Jones said.

Sen. Ellis says the revenue generated from expanded gaming in Texas would be used to fund more college scholarships and highway infrastructure throughout our state.

He still has to get the bill approved, and at this point, Gov. Rick Perry does not support it.
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