Texas officials must cease their line of inquiry into legalizing online gambling, Governor Greg Abbot said this week.
In a letter to the Chairman of the Texas Gambling Commission, Abbot said that a state prohibition on gambling expansion is in place to protect citizens and he “supports it wholeheartedly.”
Abbot’s veto comes in light of news that the state regulator has been gathering information on the feasibility of adopting new gambling games in Texas, in particular sports betting and daily fantasy sports. In October, commission executive director Gary Grief joined staff on a fact-finding mission to Delaware to examine the state’s online gambling operations.
“In light of continuous external pressures to expand the footprint of gaming in Texas, it is timely and necessary that I provide direction on prohibiting all such expansions without express authorization and direction by the Texas Legislature,” wrote Abbot in a letter dated November 9, 2015.
“Please ensure this intent and direction is strictly enforced among the staff of the Texas Lottery Commission.
Please also notify the executive director and staff that any request to travel to gather information about gaming opportunities that are prohibited in Texas should be denied.”
Gambling in Texas
Beyond the parimutuel betting at horseracing and dog tracks and the state’s one Indian casino, the only forms of gambling currently legal in Texas are the state lottery, charitable bingo and raffles.
Even the lottery, which brings in $2.2 billion every two years for public education, is under threat and its abolition has been debated in the legislature every year since its 1991 inception.
In 2013, lawmakers voted by 81-65 to scrap the lottery, before realizing that plugging that $2.2 billion hole with raffles and bingo might be a stretch of the imagination.
A hastily assembled ballot reinstated it.
Opposition in the Legislature
The idea of gambling expansion does not sit well with the conservative and Christian sensibilities of a large part of the legislature, and a bill to liberalize gambling this year was summarily quashed.
“Though we may not offer these games, we want to be knowledgeable of the industry so that we may serve as a resource to the legislature should they decide to consider these other forms of gaming,” Texas Lottery spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said of the reasoning behind the recent mission to Delaware.
“As we continue our mission to generate revenue for Texas, we are very mindful and respectful that it is the Texas Legislature that sets policy.”
However, this week Cripe told the Dallas Morning News that her organization would adhere to the governor’s wishes.