Texas lawmaker proposes casinos to close budget gap

Texas is struggling with a potentially $18 billion budget hole.

One state lawmaker believes legalized casinos might be part of the solution.

Texas House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, a Republican, said legalized casinos could bring in $1 billion in the next two-year budget period and $4 billion annually in the future.

“I'm going to look at every revenue enhancer that we can get,” Pitts said, adding that Texans now travel to other states, such as Oklahoma and Louisiana, to gamble.

“We need to grab that money,” he said.

The Texas Legislature meets every other year with 2011 hosting the next scheduled session.

Casinos would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature in addition to majority approval in a voter referendum.

“We believe recent public polls have indicated 65 percent in support of casinos,” Union Gaming Group Principal Bill Lerner said. “However, proponent polling data typically looks favorable this early in the process.”