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Texas Gov. tells Lottery to stop exploring gambling expansion

Texas LotteryTexas Lottery: Texas Gov. tells Lottery to stop exploring gambling expansion

But he doesn't have the legal authority to force the Lottery to stop

Gov. Greg Abbott has told Texas lottery officials to stop efforts to explore the expansion of sports betting lottery games and other types of gambling that are prohibited under state law.

The Dallas Morning News reports Abbott told Texas Lottery Commission Chairman J. Winston Krause in a letter Monday that he does not want the agency to continue its exploration of the games that other states have launched. Abbott wrote that the executive director and staff should be notified that any request to travel to gather information about gaming opportunities should be denied. (See Abbott's letter to Krause in Related Links below.)

Such an expansion would require approval of the Legislature, where efforts failed during the 2015 session. Texas currently has lottery drawings, such as Powerball and Lotto Texas, and scratch-off tickets.

The instructions from the governor come after letters obtained by the newspaper between the commission executive director Gary Grief and his Delaware counterpart Vernon Kirk indicate the agency's interest in the expansion of Internet betting and other games. Griek thanked Kirk for the hospitality shown when the director and his staff visited Delaware to learn about that state's operations in October.

Robert Rivera, a member of the Texas Lottery Commission and the Arlington City Council, said the five-member panel that oversees the agency did not direct Grief or the staff to pursue expanding the state's gaming portfolio and that he would ask for more details information about the exploration at the commissioners' meeting next week.

Rivera said, "The Lottery Commission has no interest in expanding what we have in front of us," he said.

Texas Lottery Commission spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said in an email on Monday that "We will adhere to what has been expressed in the Governor's letter."

Despite Cripe's statement, the Texas Governor's office does not have the power to coerce the Lottery to take any specific actions, according to an analysis conducted by The Texas Tribune.

The legal powers granted to a Texas governor include the powers of veto, appointment, and persuasion.

The first and second are pretty clear. The governor can veto legislation he or she doesn't like, and the Legislature can override that veto with a supermajority. Governors appoint the members of boards and commissions that oversee the state's executive branch agencies, with the Senate riding shotgun to approve or disapprove of those appointees.

Like any other agency head, the governor attends to his own office work, like ladling out economic development funds, deciding who oversees the divisions of the governor's office and so on. Almost everything else is persuasion.

Gov. Greg Abbott is testing his salesmanship skills this week with the letter asking the Texas Lottery Commission to stop exploring new forms of gambling.

But unlike governors in other states, Texas governors don't have cabinet-style powers: They don't have the ability to enforce their orders in the executive branch.

The governor can demand that an agency do this or that but can't enforce that demand by controlling agency budgets, regulatory powers or even who remains on the payrolls.

Persuasion is the whole bag. A governor can't even fire an appointee without the consent of the Senate.

That's why you hear the political science and government nerds referring to Texas as a "weak-governor" state: The executive branch of government is powerful, but its titular head is not.

The power of the purse is in the state Legislature, which not only writes the state budget but also has control over large mid-course adjustments. Governors can veto all or part of a state budget, but senators and representatives ultimately have more influence on state spending.

"State laws on gaming are to be viewed strictly as prohibitive to any expansion of gambling," Abbott wrote in his letter to the state's lottery commissioners this week. "This statutory framework is properly intentioned to protect our citizens, and I support it wholeheartedly. Please ensure this intent and direction is strictly enforced among the staff of the Texas Lottery Commission."

He didn't give them any orders, exactly — he can't, really — but made it clear he wants them to nix their research project.

That said, persuasion can be a powerful tool. Abbott has a bigger megaphone than anyone else in state government and with it, the ability to frame debates and set agendas.

He's effectively asking the voting public — that small but important fraction of the state's population — to take sides on gambling. He's showing gambling opponents that he's on their side. For what it's worth, he's also diverting attention from the ongoing fight at the Texas Racing Commission over historical racing and whether it would allow more gambling at the state's horse and dog tracks.

As a technical matter, he can't force the Texas Lottery Commission to do anything — or to stop doing anything. But telling everyone loudly what he thinks does force the agency's execs to think things through.

They might prevail in an argument with a governor, but do they really want to start one?

KWTX, Texas Tribune, Lottery Post Staff

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8 comments. Last comment 1 year ago by dallascowboyfan.
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Chief Bottle Washer
New Jersey
United States
Member #1
May 31, 2000
23267 Posts
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Posted: November 12, 2015, 12:09 pm - IP Logged

Commentary:  It is silly the governor even made an issue of this, let alone wrote a letter about it to the committee.  Why shouldn't Texas Lottery officials keep up-to-date on successful operations in other states?  In fact, I believe they would be derelict of their duty if they did not.

There would be several hurdles to overcome if the Texas Lottery wanted to add new types of gambling, so it's not like their visit and exploration of different types of gambling would force any changes to happen, or add any new gambling options in Texas.

This seems like just a simple political move by the governor.  I shake my head at these politicians who hold up gambling as the root of all evil, when the state is clearly benefiting from gambling, and the citizens clearly want it. Their faux morality and outrage is not welcome when creating public policy.

 

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    rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
    Texas
    United States
    Member #55889
    October 23, 2007
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    Posted: November 12, 2015, 12:49 pm - IP Logged

    Unfortunately, there is an anti-gambling/anti-lottery constituent in Texas. There are many state senators, and state representatives that would very much like to do away with the lottery, and they foolishly almost did so recently. Then they realized they were tossing away a billion dollars a year. Ooops. I would really like to see casinos in Texas, which would be great for the state. There are a lot of people that travel to OK and LA to casinos that would benefit Texas if we had them here. I don't think it will ever happen though.

    Abbott is simply playing politics. Which disappoints me because I liked him and supported him when he ran for Governor. But, he still is a better choice than the idiot that ran against him.

    CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

    A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

      mikeintexas's avatar - tx avatar-1.gif
      Texas Panhandle
      United States
      Member #136843
      December 20, 2012
      1276 Posts
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      Posted: November 12, 2015, 2:51 pm - IP Logged

      Unfortunately, there is an anti-gambling/anti-lottery constituent in Texas. There are many state senators, and state representatives that would very much like to do away with the lottery, and they foolishly almost did so recently. Then they realized they were tossing away a billion dollars a year. Ooops. I would really like to see casinos in Texas, which would be great for the state. There are a lot of people that travel to OK and LA to casinos that would benefit Texas if we had them here. I don't think it will ever happen though.

      Abbott is simply playing politics. Which disappoints me because I liked him and supported him when he ran for Governor. But, he still is a better choice than the idiot that ran against him.

      I Agree!  They should take Abbott and any legislator who opposes gambling to the parking lots of the casinos in Louisiana and Oklahoma and have them count the Texas plates on the vehicles parked there.   What should be mentioned is that it's bi-partisan opposition;  sure,  the Texas legislature is mostly Republican, but the main opposition to the lottery was voiced by Democrats, saying that it preys upon the minorities they represent in places like Houston.  OTOH, many Republican legislators are far too heavily influenced by their ultra-religious constituents. The Indian casinos in Oklahoma are very actively involved in Texas state politics and have a vested interest in keeping gambling from being legal here.  Perfectly legal of them to lobby, but....

      I'm w/ you about Abbott and his opponent, the one-trick-pony Abortion Barbie.  The trouble with most elections is that we're faced with voting for the lesser of two evils...and even the lesser of the two is still evil.

      In lieu of legalizing gambling, they should at least build a toll road to WinStar in OK - that would generate a million bucks/month, I reckon. Wink

      It really needs to be put to a vote via a referendum.  I'd bet (no pun intended) that it would pass in favor.


      A people that elect corrupt politicians, impostors, thieves and traitors are not victims...but accomplices.
       - George Orwell

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        Kentucky
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        Member #32652
        February 14, 2006
        7310 Posts
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        Posted: November 12, 2015, 3:59 pm - IP Logged

        I Agree!  They should take Abbott and any legislator who opposes gambling to the parking lots of the casinos in Louisiana and Oklahoma and have them count the Texas plates on the vehicles parked there.   What should be mentioned is that it's bi-partisan opposition;  sure,  the Texas legislature is mostly Republican, but the main opposition to the lottery was voiced by Democrats, saying that it preys upon the minorities they represent in places like Houston.  OTOH, many Republican legislators are far too heavily influenced by their ultra-religious constituents. The Indian casinos in Oklahoma are very actively involved in Texas state politics and have a vested interest in keeping gambling from being legal here.  Perfectly legal of them to lobby, but....

        I'm w/ you about Abbott and his opponent, the one-trick-pony Abortion Barbie.  The trouble with most elections is that we're faced with voting for the lesser of two evils...and even the lesser of the two is still evil.

        In lieu of legalizing gambling, they should at least build a toll road to WinStar in OK - that would generate a million bucks/month, I reckon. Wink

        It really needs to be put to a vote via a referendum.  I'd bet (no pun intended) that it would pass in favor.

        It was the same at the Michigan, Indiana, PA, New York, and West Virginia casinos before Ohio got casino gambling; parking lots full of Ohio license plates. Mountaineer Park and Wheeling Downs in West Virginia both saw their revenues drop when the Ohio casinos opened.

          Get paid's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
          texas
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          February 11, 2014
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          Posted: November 12, 2015, 6:16 pm - IP Logged

          Greg please: You should see all the texas lic.plates at okc casinos.Millions of texas tax money going to oklahoma.

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            Simpsonville
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            January 22, 2015
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            Posted: November 12, 2015, 7:18 pm - IP Logged

            Greg please: You should see all the texas lic.plates at okc casinos.Millions of texas tax money going to oklahoma.

            Always see tons of KY tags @ Horseshoe Indiana; advertises itself as only 11 miles from downtown Louisville. These politicians here could care less about horse racing which they wanted racinos.  Even Churchill Downs wants slot machines.

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              Kentucky
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              February 14, 2006
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              Posted: November 12, 2015, 8:02 pm - IP Logged

              Always see tons of KY tags @ Horseshoe Indiana; advertises itself as only 11 miles from downtown Louisville. These politicians here could care less about horse racing which they wanted racinos.  Even Churchill Downs wants slot machines.

              The Red Mile, Keeneland, and Churchill Downs has slots.

                dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
                Oklahoma
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                November 12, 2009
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                Posted: November 14, 2015, 5:37 am - IP Logged

                I know whenever we drive to Texas on I35 south there's always a lot of Texas residents going to Winstar sometimes traffic is backed up on the off ramp with cars from Texas to Oklahoma.

                I Love Pink & Green 1908