DALLAS — Proponents of expanded gambling in Texas told lawmakers Tuesday that casino gambling and slot machines at existing horse tracks could generate more than $1 billion a year in state taxes.
The House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee is considering several bills to expand gambling as lawmakers grapple with a $13 billion revenue shortfall in the next biennium.
Legislation co-sponsored by committee chairman Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, would authorize seven new casinos as well as slot machines at 13 horse and dog tracks, and at bingo halls.
An economic analysis of House Joint Resolution 112 by the Legislative Budget Board found that Hamilton’s proposal would generate $252.4 million a year in fiscal 2012, going to $828.8 million a year by fiscal 2016.
The board found that HB 2111 — the racetrack slots bill by Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston — would provide $284.3 million of state revenues in fiscal 2012 and $713.4 million in fiscal 2016.
Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England said the gambling bill would increase the competition at the horse track in the city, which is located between Dallas and Fort Worth.
“We have a major-league track and minor-league horses,” England told the House committee. “We need that revenue.”
Hamilton said he would not advance the casino and slots bill or any other gambling bill unless there are 100 favorable votes in the 150-member House.
The gambling proposals would require amending the state constitution, with passage by two-thirds in the House and Senate, and approval by Texas voters in a statewide election.
Sen. Charles Duncan, R-Lubbock, chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, said he does not plan to hold hearings on the bills because there is not enough support for the measures in the committee or among the 31 state senators.
However, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said a different committee could consider the gambling proposals. Ellis has introduced a bill to establish a commission that could award 12 casinos in the state.
“This is a matter of economics,” he said. “Texans already spend $10 billion per year gambling.”
“We can either continue to allow the majority of that money to fund education and health care in other states, or use it to fund our own critical needs,” Ellis said.
The Texas Gaming Association is supporting a bill that would allow for eight casinos and slots at eight tracks. It said when fully operational, the plan would generate $1.3 billion in state taxes a year, including $771 million from the casinos and $515 million from the slots.
Jack Pratt, chairman of the TGA, said expanded gambling would create thousands of new jobs in the state, and keep Texas dollars in Texas.
“Texans spend approximately $4 billion each year in casinos in Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada,” he said. “We believe it is time to let the voters decide this important issue.”
Win for Texas, a group that backs a proposal for slots only at the racetracks, said the 13 sites would generate $921 million of state taxes a year by fiscal 2013. The revenue figure is based on $3 billion in total revenues with a 30% state tax.