The odds of passing a casino gambling bill this session grew longer Tuesday when an influential senator decided not to move his measure out of committee.
Gambling legislation’s chances are “very slim,” state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said Tuesday. “As each week passes, the likelihood becomes less and less.” About six weeks remain in the 140-day legislative session.
Carona, chairman of the Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee, said last week he expected to vote his sweeping gambling bill out of his committee Tuesday. But the morning committee hearing came and went, and Carona declined to bring the bill up for a vote.
Carona’s fellow senators told him they didn’t want to take a vote on the controversial topic if it doesn’t have much of a chance, especially in the Texas House, Carona said.
State Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, agreed that there is not much of an appetite for gambling in the House this year.
“I don’t think it has a great chance over here,” said Kuempel, who supports expanded gambling to bring additional revenue to Texas. “It’s challenged in the 83rd legislative session in the Texas House.”
Carona’s gambling measure would let Texans vote on changing the state constitution to allow casinos in metro and coastal areas, as well as at horse and dog tracks and on Indian reservations. Similar bills failed in recent years because of religious objections, fears of the social costs and infighting among gambling interests.
Expanding gambling requires a constitutional amendment, which needs approval of two-thirds of each chamber before the voters get their say at the polls.
Even if his legislation fails this session, Carona said a lot has been accomplished in the past several weeks. Notably, two often clashing pro-gambling interests — those seeking slot machines at racetracks and those advocating casinos — have worked well together on a broad gambling bill.
“Time is always your enemy in a legislative session,” Carona said, adding that he is not ready to pronounce gambling dead just yet.
Still, Carona and Kuempel agreed that the best chances for passing a bill could come if a special session is called to fund public education.
Many people expect a special session on public school finance in 2014, after a Texas Supreme Court ruling. A state district judge has ruled parts of the funding system unconstitutional, and the case is on appeal.