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Comptroller: Texas missing potential $1B from gaming

Dec 19, 2003, 3:12 am

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GamblingGambling: Comptroller: Texas missing potential $1B from gaming

More than $1 billion a year is being "sucked out" of Texas because of the popularity of electronic gaming in other states, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn told a Texas House committee Thursday.

"Over a billion dollars a year [is] being sucked out of Texas classrooms to other states," Strayhorn says. "We must repatriate these dollars for the school children of Texas."

Last April, Strayhorn recommended to the 78th Legislature that the state allow video lottery at racetracks where Texans already have voted for gaming. Strayhorn recommended including the proposal in a constitutional amendment approved by the voters, dedicating every penny to lowering homeowners' property taxes and to more funding for education.

Approving video lottery terminals in Texas racetracks almost certainly will bring up the issue of gaming operations sponsored by Native American tribes in Texas, Strayhorn says.

"We need to approach the tribes respectfully as partners, or we risk losing them entirely. The tribes want to educate their children and serve their members' health care needs, no different from any other caring community," Strayhorn says.

Strayhorn says a major plus for locating video terminals in Texas' racetracks is it wouldn't expand the "footprint" of gaming. The terminals will be placed where gaming already is taking place and where voters already have approved it.

Once fully carried out, Strayhorn says, a video lottery system could generate more than $1 billion a year -- without a tax increase.

"Video lottery's economic benefit to Texas is not limited to bringing back money Texans are already spending elsewhere. Video lottery operations in Texas also would create thousands of jobs. Texans could pick up 10,000 to 15,000 new jobs once the tracks are fully equipped," Strayhorn says.

Austin Business Journal

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