Texas Casino Bill Would Create Nine Commercial Casinos in Lone Star State

Posted on: March 7, 2017, 06:11h. 

Last updated on: March 7, 2017, 06:11h.

A Texas casino bill, introduced this week by State Representative Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), would legalize commercial casino gaming in the Lone Star State and authorize up to nine casinos.

Joe Deshotel presents Texas casino bill
State Representative Joe Deshotel’s well-intentioned casino bill will be swimming up stream in its bid to push through a constitutional amendment to the voters on commercial casino gambling. (Image: Texas Legislative Black Caucus)

This is not Deshotel’s first rodeo. He introduced a very similar bill in 2015, which was Texas’ last legislative session (it’s biennial) and it dwindled without a trace.

But he is clearly a believer in the power of positive thinking. This is, after all, a state where casino expansion legislation might be about as popular as a bill to prohibit breakfast tacos.     

Everything may be bigger in Texas, but not casinos. It has just one, at least officially: the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, situated in Eagle Pass on Kickapoo sovereign lands, a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande Mexican border.

It offers bingo, poker and electronic pull-tab dispensers designed to look and operate like slot machines.

Tribal Skirmishes

Its two other federally recognized tribes, the Alabama-Coushattas and the Tigua Indians, operated similar casinos until they were closed down in 2002.

But last year, the Alabama-Coushattas dared to reopen their East Texas Bingo Hall after the federal government ruled the tribe should be permitted to operate Class II game on its sovereign lands.

The state begs to differ, though, and claims that the tribe’s electronic bingo offering should be classed as slots and therefore Class III gaming, which is prohibited unless explicitly sanctioned by a compact with the state.

In short, Texas wants to shut the casino down for the second time in 15 years.       

Long Odds and Good Causes

Into this hostile landscape tiptoes Deshotel and his dreams of nine gleaming new casinos. He wants a statewide referendum to vote on casino expansion, and would need 100 of the state’s 150 representatives on board to push through a constitutional amendment to the voters.

He believes in a good cause, though, and wants a large portion of the proceeds from an 18 percent tax on casino revenues going to help pay for storm insurance for homeowners on the coast who must seek protection against the annual threat of hurricanes.

The bad news, again, for Deshotel is that even the lottery is controversial in Texas and has faced opposition in the legislature ever since it was established in 1991, despite the $2.2 billion a year it brings in for good causes.      

This is one instance in which the odds are stacked against the house. Or, at least, against the House Representative for Beaumont, Texas.