Ellis, Geren: Let Voters Decide on Casino Gaming
SJR 18 would let Texans choose whether to allow regulated casinos
(Austin)// -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Representative Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) held a press conference today to relay a simple message to the legislature: let the voters decide on casino gaming. The bipartisan group of legislators urged swift action on SJR 18, the Texas Economic Development and Job Creation Act, legislation to allow the voters of Texas to decide if they want to allow limited, state-regulated casino gaming in the state.
"Over the years, the voters of Texas have made the final decision on many important yet contentious issues," said Ellis. "They voted on a statewide lottery and the right to carry a concealed handgun. After years of gridlock on another important issue, it is time to once again go to the voters."
"In my opinion, Texas voters need to weigh in on the issue," said Geren. "Historically we have asked voters what they want to do about big issues like tort reform, concealed handguns, income tax prohibitions, and the state lottery. With that in mind, it's high time for the same voters who elected me, who elected my colleagues, and who elected every statewide official to say 'yea' or 'nay.'"
If passed and approved by the voters, the Texas Economic Development and Job Creation Act, would establish the Texas Gaming Commission to license and regulate casinos in Texas. The Commission would be authorized to grant up to twelve casino projects in Texas -- seven in urban areas based on population; two centered in the Gulf Coast region; and three additional projects across the state judged by the Commission to best boost job creation and economic development. Before a casino project could be launched, an additional local option election must be held in the county in which a person applies for a casino license.
If passed, the Texas Economic Development and Job Creation could have a tremendous impact economic impact on Texas. According to economist Ray Perryman, well-regulated casino gaming in Texas would create over 250,000 new jobs and provide $584.6 million for the state and $412.3 million for local entities over the three year construction phase; an additional $2.1 billion for the state and $729.7 million for local governments would be generated every year once the facilities are operational.
"The Texas Economic Development and Job Creation Act will create jobs and provide billions each year for state and local governments," said Ellis. "This bill just makes sense. Why should we subsidize Louisiana and Nevada when we can create jobs and boost economic development here at home?"
"I want legislation that has basic voting protections for local communities, and I want to ensure significant and lasting economic development for Texas," said Geren.
The group of legislators stressed that SJR 18 is a starting point for discussion, not a conclusion to the process.
"We fully understand that the details of this legislation will change as we work with our colleagues throughout the session," said Ellis. "We look forward to working with all sides to achieve a goal that will help Texas. We are married to only one provision: that the voters of Texas decide the future of casino gaming in Texas."
"Every time we have money problems in Austin, folks start throwing gambling ideas out as the panacea," said Geren. "Sometimes it slot machines at the race tracks. Sometimes we talk about expanding lotto games. And sometimes we talk about full scale casinos. The bottom line is -- I'm tired of talking about it. Let's vote it up and move forward or vote it down and put it behind us. But please, let's stop dancing around the issue once and for all."
The Texas Economic Development and Job Creation Act of 2005
Casino Gaming Constitutional Amendment
- Constitutional amendment that will allow the voters of Texas to decide if they want casino gaming in Texas.
- A local option election must be held in each county in which a person applies for a casino license and the Commission may not grant a license unless the majority of voters in that county approve.
- The Constitutional amendment will establish the Texas Gaming Commission to administer law regulating gaming in Texas.
- The Gaming Commission will be made up of five appointed members (one each by the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, Attorney General, and Comptroller)
- The Commission will be authorized to grant twelve (12) casino- anchored destination attraction development projects according to the following parameters:
- Seven projects in urban areas allocated by population
- Two projects on islands in the Gulf of Mexico
- Three additional projects in locations determined by the commission to achieve targeted economic development or permanent job creation.
- The Commission can only grant a license if the project meets certain economic development qualifications:
- $400 million for an urban area project
- $200 million for an island tourist destination project
- $150 for an additional project