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Kevin Smith

Texas Legislature Rejects Internet Lottery Proposa

5 May 2005

Scratch Texas off the list of U.S. states contending to be the first to offer lottery tickets over the Internet.

The state's House of Representatives voted 89-52 Wednesday against a measure that could have raised an additional $275 million for a state embroiled in a budget crisis by allowing its lottery to sell tickets over the Internet.

The legislation failed after hours of House debate, much of which centered on whether expanding gambling was the right way to solve the budget crisis. It was one of 40-plus bills proposing new ways to offset losses.

Despite a potentially massive influx of new revenue, those congressman who voiced concerns over the expansion of the gambling industry in the state and the ability of children to buy lottery tickets over the Internet ultimately prevailed.

While the Texas legislature is known for heavy partisanship, opposition in this case came from both sides of the aisle. Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, and Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, worried that online gambling could worsen the plight of low-income Texans and their children.

Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, argued that the bill would usher in an era of online gambling over which the state would have little control.

"We're now going to have unregulated gambling," Howard said. "There is no way to know who it is (online).

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said the budget plan tentatively adopted without the gambling proposal would add $1 billion more toward the budget from the previous year.

The bill's sponsor in the House, Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, was particularly critical of the underage gambling argument.

"Let's not allow the children to drown," Turner said, "while we be holier than thou and say to them, 'Drown. We will save you in the afterlife.'"

Turner's proposal would have allowed online purchases via debit cards, ATM cards or accounts set up by the Texas Lottery Commission.

Turner could reintroduce his bill later in the session, but he has indicated that he'll probably let it go.

Texas was one of three U.S. states, along with Georgia and Illinois, considering bills to bring their lotteries to the Internet. The Georgia bill passed in the House and was sent to the Senate for committee hearings before the legislature adjourned for the year. Illinois' bill is scheduled for a Senate hearing next week in the Judiciary Committee.

Texas Legislature Rejects Internet Lottery Proposa is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith