by Raymond Whelan
According to the results of a recent public opinion poll, most Texans would welcome video lottery terminals at the state's five horse and three Greyhound racetracks.
The May survey by Baselice and Associates indicated more than 70% of 600 registered voters believe revenue collected from VLTs would reduce property taxes and provide more funds for public schools. Furthermore, more than 70% of the respondents said they would favor legalization of VLTs if legislators were to put the option on a state constitutional amendment election ballot this November.
As mandated by the Texas constitution, two-thirds of the legislature must approve any amendment before voters can consider it.
"Texans are a strong-minded people, and this survey shows they want a say in how this issue is decided," said Tommy Azopardi, executive director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership. "Given this strong support, we urge Texas legislators to give voters that right."
The THP estimates Texans spend about $1 billion at Louisiana gaming venues each year. For months, the THP, the Texas Thoroughbred Association, the Texas Agri-Industry Council, and other groups have said gaming would make Texas tracks much more competitive with Louisiana and other neighboring states that already offer VLTs at racetracks and casinos.
Moreover, many VLT supporters have said the machines could yield nearly $2 billion for public schools during the next three years. However, during a recent 30-day special session called by Gov. Rick Perry to restructure public school finances, a slim majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted against VLTs.
Before the special session ended the week of May 17, the Senate never even voted on the VLT issue, though the governor announced he would support the machines. Plus, a pro-VLT proposal introduced by Sen. Kenneth Armbrister failed to leave the Senate Finance Committee.
Sometime during the summer or fall, political experts predict the governor will call legislators back to the state capitol in Austin for another special session to confront the still-unresolved public school finance problem and possibly reopen the VLT debate.