Gambling industry gearing up

A Dec. 26 story in the Austin American-Statesman talks about ailing horse and dog racing tracks and reveals that industry’s plans to try to expand gambling in Texas by influencing the political process.

“Texans for Economic Development, the umbrella group for track owners, breeders and other segments of the racing industry, has budgeted $1 million to contribute to campaigns in next year’s [2008] legislative races and $2 million for a lobbying effort to persuade the Legislature and Texans that the industry needs slot machines at tracks to survive.”

“It’s not about Democrats and Republicans; it’s not about the speaker’s race,” said Tommy Azopardi, the group’s president. “It’s not anything other than, ‘Are you for (VLTs (slot machines) or not.’ ”

Then there’s a New York Times story that refers to a new type of lottery game now being pushed.

“With the popularity of traditional lotteries waning across the country, many states are turning to instant games priced at $20, $30 and as high as $50 to lure new players and raise revenue.

“Scratch-off tickets, for example, now account for more than 75 percent of lottery sales in Texas, which this year became the first state to introduce a $50 scratch-off game.”But critics in Texas and elsewhere say games promising this kind of instant gratification are more likely to contribute to the kind of problem gambling that is usually associated with fast-paced casino betting, and they are now trying to limit them.

“They say the games take particular advantage of the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor and members of minority groups.”

These stories are a reminder that the gambling industry never sleeps. Money is at stake; or, rather, that industry’s ability to make money off of regular folks. Almost all informed people know that the gambling industry’s rhetoric about economic and educational development is simply hogwash. Texans, led by the BGCT’s Suzii Paynter, have done a great job in recent years in stopping the spread of gambling. Something tells me this will be a never-ending task.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)


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