Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gambling Options for Texans: Introduction

As we all know, Texas is steadfastly refusing to expand authorized gaming beyond the current poorly ran Horse/Dog Racing program, and the legalized tax on those with low math skills that is the Texas Lottery. At this point, Texas is a State surrounded by neighbors who all allow, to some extent, full casino gambling.  Louisiana has casino hubs in Vinton, Kinder, Lake Charles and Shreveport*, Oklahoma has Tribal casinos in Durant and Thackerville* and New Mexico has casino race tracks in Hobbs and Sunland Park*. In short, for most Texans there are casino gambling options within a few hours drive from home.

One of the arguments "FOR" expanded gaming in Texas are rosy fiscal projections, by supporters, suggesting that Texas would achieve somewhere in the area of $1.2 Billion in additional taxes/fees, as well as $416 Millions in taxes/fees for local entities. (source: 2013 Financial Impact Study commissioned by the Texas Association of Business) Unfortunately, for supporters, that's an argument that doesn't quite hold water.

Consider gambling revenue from neighboring States:

Oklahoma: $122 Million

Louisiana: $675 Million

New Mexico: $131 Million

That's total State income of approximately $925 MM. When viewed purely through that lens it makes sense to say that Texas could achieve $1.2 B in revenues. However, it's important to note that over half of the State revenue (with the possible exception of Louisiana) are not coming from Texas sources.  When you attempt to carve out the Texas portion of the state's revenue, you end up with a number that's close to $700 MM, which is a lot lower than the $1.6 Billion in overall revenue increases that the TAB is projecting.

The above ignores the fact that, in Texas, the issue of expanding gambling to allow for casinos is a dead issue. I felt the sign that the issue is no more was cemented by the opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles. If Tillman Fertitta, the person most readily positioned to capitalize on Texas gaming, purchased a gaming license in Lake Charles tells me that he believes the legislation will not pass any time in the near future.

This leaves Texans with a desire to gamble with out-of-state options. I'm going to spend some time, in the coming weeks, talking in-depth about the pros and cons of each of these options and why, or why not, visiting there is a good bet.  Those options are: (in order that I plan on writing about them)

1. Louisiana
2. Oklahoma
3. New Mexico
4, Atlantic City
5. Other States (combined)
6. Las Vegas

There are pros and cons to each of these destinations which I hope to address honestly and fully in this series.

It's important to note that gaming comes with the potential for fun, but also has horrible downsides. People with addictive personalities should not gamble. Neither should people with poor impulse control.  The rush that goes with a winning bet is undeniable, as is the crushing price of not being able to control your bank-roll.  Before you take up, or continue, gaming, I encourage you to try and bet a few small hands at a Texas race-track.  See how you do controlling yourself. If you find you have problems, cannot stop, keep trying to "get back" losses by spending more then try and find a new hobby.  Casinos are among the most fun places, in my opinion, to spend time in the world. The buzz is undeniable, the action is fun and the people watching is amusing. However, they're also some of the most depressing.  Keep that in mind.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this series and if you have any questions or things you would like to see addressed please let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do.

*Of course, there are other casinos in each of these states but I'm mainly focusing on the ones that specifically cater to the Texas audience. 

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