Today the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee will take up proposals aimed at expanding gambling in Texas. The gambling lobby has been pressing hard this session despite suffering heavy losses during the 2010 election cycle.
Gambling interests have managed to stay relevant by messaging gambling will alleviate current budget woes and by riding the coat tails of gambling friendly Speaker Joe Straus. The second connection is vitally important because as Texas Lobby Watch, a left wing group, reported in December, gambling interests picked losers by backing Democrats at a higher rate than Republicans in the 2010 general election.
Combined, the gambling interest groups spent nearly $1 million, 80% of that that going to Democrats. The creatively named Texans for Economic Development topped the list of gambling interests giving in the 2010 election cycle. Nine times out of ten, the group’s activities in Republican races were against the conservative candidate.
Lawmakers who helped Straus topple Speaker Tom Craddick in early 2009 dominate the top Republican House candidates backed by gambling interests. Apart from Speaker Straus, the gambling industry’s favorite Republican House candidate was Lubbock Rep. Delwin Jones, who lost his March primary. Jones helped open the door to a new speaker as one of the Anybody-But-Craddick (ABC) Republicans. Speaker Straus then appointed Rep. Jones as House Redistricting Committee chair.
Jones lost his primary to conservative backed candidate Charles Perry. Jones was one of three losses TED suffered in the primary. The other two moderate candidates who lost after being backed by TED were Mabrie Jackson and Tommy Merritt.
Right now, conservatives in the House are likely being pressured to support gambling under the guise that it is a silver bullet for budget woes. It’s not. But that’s not the only reason why lawmakers should be skeptical of the actions of the lobby. The group’s election efforts have been consistent and have largely benefited moderate and liberal candidates.
An expansion of gambling will bring an increased footprint of gambling interests which will translate into more heavily funded opposition to conservative candidates. Gambling interests and liberals are natural allies. Gambling leads to government dependence after paychecks are gambled away, a condition good for liberal politicians to line the pockets of special interests.