Texas racetrack owners have begun trying to convince Texans that casinos are a good idea. Actually, this push is about “racinos” (slot machines at the racetrack) not casinos, but “casinos” is the messaging they seem to have chosen.
The destination of this push is likely a “compromise” in which legislators are again pitched on privatizing the Texas lottery. In the privatization process they are likely to push rule changes that make slot machines at the track possible. This would be just the latest attempt to get slot machines without an up or down vote, which they know they would lose. Such is the confusing world of tricky gambling interests.
John Montford is out trying to sell Texans on the idea of “casinos” (racinos). In the early nineties Montford was a leader in the push for our last miracle budget-cure, the Texas lottery.
Remember back when the lottery was passed? Today nobody sees the lottery as a revenues savior, but thanks to its salesmen, we did back then. It was going to cure our school funding woes. (Yes, school funding was doing the political heavy lifting for the cronies back then too.)
Yet today the lottery funds less than three days of public school. On the other hand, the lottery gets a huge share of its revenues from the areas in Texas most dependent 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.
What about the “casino” salesman? Montford has enjoyed a distinguished career. As a Democratic state senator he sponsored the Texas lottery bill that ushered Texas into the distinguished world of scratch-off tickets and lucky numbers. He was then made the chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. After that he worked for one of the companies that, year-over-year, spends the most money in Texas on lobbying – AT&T. Montford was their director of legislative affairs – leader of the AT&T lobbyists. Most recently, Montford worked for GM during its new ‘Government Motors” phase.
Montford could easily say, channeling fictional Mets second baseman Chico Escuela of SNL fame, “Government been bery, bery good to me.”
You could bet that the cronies pushing for casinos and increased gambling will get help from their favorite crusaders, the black-helicopter right. On cue, they will use free market rhetoric to aid and abet another round of cronyism.
Sure, gambling will junk up our state, but it’s all for liberty, right? Wrong.
Track owners are a small crew and licenses aren’t easy to get. Pretending we live under different circumstances is a waste of time. Expanded gambling in Texas would result in the same thing that exists everywhere else there is gambling – an effective gambling oligopoly.
Besides that, gambling spends or destroys more government revenue than comes from the casinos themselves due to greater law enforcement needs, greater social service needs, and depressed productivity. States that have allowed gambling to expand haven’t experienced the budget relief that was promised. We should know – we live in a state still waiting for our lottery funding bonanza.
We don’t need more gambling in Texas, we need less. We don’t need the budget-busting costs more gambling produces, we don’t need the massive bureaucracy it will inevitably create, and we don’t need the effective oligopoly it will empower.