Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Ellis, Carona File Casino Gaming Plan

SJR 45/SB 1359 would legalize casino gaming, tie revenue to TEXAS Grants, state financial aid

(AUSTIN) -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) held a press conference today to urge swift action on SJR 45 and SB 1359, legislation to legalize state-regulated casino gaming in the state. The Ellis-Carona Plan would dedicate revenue generated by casino gaming to TEXAS Grants and other state financial aid programs to ensure Texas students can meet the rising costs of college.

"Poll after poll show an overwhelming majority of Texans support legalizing casino gaming," said Ellis. "Texans are already voting with their feet and going out of state. It's time for Texas to reap the economic benefits and use that revenue to help Texas students go to college."

"This is a matter of economics," said Senator Carona. "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 here in Texas."

If passed and approved by the voters, SJR 45 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. The legislation would also allow Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at horse and greyhound tracks and casinos of federally recognized Indian tribes.

If passed, the Ellis-Carona Plan could have a tremendous impact economic impact on Texas. According to economist Ray Perryman, well-regulated casino gaming in Texas would create between 315,000 and 400,000 new, permanent jobs and generate $3.1 to $4.5 billion in state and local revenue. Perryman also predicts the plan would generate $31 to $45 billion in construction efforts.

The Ellis-Carona plan would place $1 billion in a trust fund to pay for higher education tuition. Perryman estimates that the proposal could pay tuition for about 240,000 Texas kids each year.

"This plan will create jobs and provide billions each year for state and local governments," said Ellis. "It will help pay for more than 200,000 additional grants for students to go to college.

Why should we subsidize Louisiana and Nevada when we can create jobs, boost economic development and help Texans achieve their dreams? This bill just makes sense."

"When you look at the revenue state-regulated casino gambling will generate, it would be foolish not to give Texans the opportunity to decide whether they want casinos in our state," said Senator Carona. "Sending over 200,000 kids to college each year is one of the best economic development programs I've seen in my 19 years in the Legislature."

The Senators stressed that SJR 45 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: dedicating this revenue to help more Texans go to college."

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