Tough Bet: Bill Would Allow Local Vote on Gambling Machines

The battle over legalized gambling in Texas has moved beyond horse tracks and sports betting. State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo) has filed a bill that would allow for a vote on eight-liners, which are like electronic slot machines. "The bill, as it's written, would allow the state to ban (the machines), but individual communities, counties, or even smaller districts could then vote and say no, we would like them," says Ed Silverstein, senior reporter for "If those votes pass, then that local community would be able to have eight-liners in their area."

The bill would also increase the maximum payout on eight-liners from $5 under current law to $1,500. "And the legislation wouldn't regulate eight-liners that pay out less than $5, so the small-time operations would still be able to carry on," says Silverstein.

Raymond, the bill's author, described it as a compromise since it would ban the machines statewide but allow local jurisdictions to approve them if they choose. However, like most gambling legislation, it faces an uphill battle in Austin. Despite a growing push for legalized sports betting in recent years, and a new lobbying campaign by Las Vegas casino operators, the odds remain long for any kind of legalized gambling in Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said so this week, telling an interviewer there is no widespread appetite for legalized casino or sports betting in the Lone Star State.

Silverstein agrees that bills like Raymond's are not likely to move the needle much. "This year, it sounds like it's not going to happen," he tells KTRH. "A few years out it's possible, especially if Texas is looking for some new revenue sources."

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