The question of whether Texas should legalize casino gambling was posed at a candidate forum last week and was hosted by the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in partnership with other local chambers. A small audience of business owners attended for the promise of getting to better know the candidates vying for the North Bexar County seat.
The push to take another look at the issue of legalized gambling has come due to recent pressure during recent years, according to the Texas Tribune.
The past legislation saw a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort by a Nevada gaming empire, which the Tribune called “easily the biggest campaign to expand gambling in Texas that the state has seen in a long time.”
“We’ve danced around this one for years and years and years,” said Kevin Wolff, the former Bexar County Commissioner moderating the forum. “What should our state do in regards to state gambling?”
The four candidates in attendance at the forum, Adam Blanchard, Mark Dorazio, Elisa Chan and Mark Cuthbert, hope to replace Republican state Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), who has opted not to run for reelection.
Blanchard, a trucking business owner, voiced enthusiastic support for legalizing gambling. Every state around Texas has casinos, Blanchard said. “That looks like tax dollars going out of the state.”
Blanchard also said casino gambling could create a new tax revenue stream that would help relieve the pressure on property taxes to fund education, health care and other existing spending areas and also bolster economic activity in tourism and real estate.
“If we have the means of building up other revenue sources that can help us combat this property tax issue, why aren’t we doing it?” he said.
Dorazio, a longtime local GOP leader and construction business owner, had some reservations.
“Sure, there’s always an economic gain by something like that, but we need to study some of the other areas that have done this,” he said.
Cuthbert, a United Services Automobile Association executive and Air Force veteran, said the issue should be decided by voters in a referendum.
Chan said Texas’ economic diversity sets it apart from the states surrounding it with casinos, making new revenue for the state less of a priority.
“So the question is do we have enough — and perhaps we do, I think we do — economic strength and potential business growth to give us the revenue for whatever we need to do,” she said.