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Casinos in Texas? It Might Happen Sooner Than You Think

Bobby Blanchard, KUT News

Texas voters would decide whether or not casinos would be allowed in the state, if state lawmakers approve a referendum that would amend the state Constitution.

State Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) said his proposal would allow 21 casinos to be distributed throughout the state, and would create a gambling commission. Carona, the author of the bill, said it is time Texas allows for casinos and slot machines, so the state doesn't fall behind other states economically.

“Texas spends nearly $3 billion annually at gaming facilities in Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico, helping pay for their roads, their schools and their hospitals, and its time for us to do something about that," Carona said.

The referendum would allow for a limited number of destination resort casinos and permit casinos in Texas in the form of a Constitution Amendment that voters would have to approve.  A Constitutional amendment is something Texas Governor Rick Perry cannot veto -- something Carona said is no accident.

Carona said he has been working on legislation like this for six years, and while he is not sure it will pass this time, he believes it will eventually.

"You never really know when a major issue like this will find a break or an opportunity to be passed," Carona said. "I think the opportunity will present itself if not during this session then perhaps during the next or a special session on school finance, should there be one.”

According to a poll commissioned by a group supporting expanded gambling in the state, 82 percent of Texans support letting voters decide on having casinos in Texas.

A public hearing on the casino referendum is scheduled for Wednesday.

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