To celebrate my 36th year on the planet, the wife, friends and I headed east to visit the riverboats last weekend.
For several birthdays since I turned 21, I’ve made this voyage to Shreveport and Bossier City to try my luck at blackjack and other games.
There are never any visions of getting rich. It’s more about having a good time and blowing off a little steam. If I do happen to pocket a few dollars – as I did this weekend – it’s a bonus.
Each time I sit down at a table and strike up a conversation with fellow players, I quickly found out they are also Texans. I always enjoy the hospitality of my fellow Texans, but it also frustrates me a bit watching money flow into the pockets of our neighbors.
It’s not just Louisiana, but also Oklahoma and New Mexico that bet on the need of Texans to gamble to bring jobs and revenue to their state. Actually, 39 states in the U.S. now allow casinos.
But the nation’s second-most populated state can’t get the issue through the legislature for voters to decide on.
Through the last few legislative sessions, different groups and legislators have brought forth responsible gaming proposals that would bring jobs to the largest metropolitan areas with casino districts. The proposals also allowed some other districts around the state, along with casinos at the struggling Class One horse racing tracks.
It’s no secret Lone Star Park and other racetracks are losing quality horses, trainers and most notably patrons to neighboring states where there are casinos at the tracks.
Opponents to gaming say casinos, with their bright lights and promise of riches, prey on the poor and needy. To an extent, I agree. Over the weekend, a dealer told me about watching people gamble away their gas money home.
But this state already has the lottery, which is far worse with its long odds and little chance of a payoff.
The benefit of the casino districts would outweigh the social ills: job creation, and pumping life into the tourism and convention industry.
It’s no coincidence that Las Vegas dominates the convention industry.
Even my own profession is guilty of finding a casino to host a convention – the North and East Texas Press Association drifted across the border to the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Okla., for its annual meeting last year.
Can you imagine the draw the Metroplex could become with casino districts providing nighttime entertainment to convention visitors after a day on one of the many pristine, area golf courses?
Given the little headway in Austin, I’m betting future birthdays will be spent out of state to get a gaming fix.
At least I’ll have plenty of Texans to talk with.
Richard Greene is sports editor of the Messenger.