The Texas state legislature is considering the passage of measures to legalize sports betting and gambling casinos in Texas. Advocates tout the economic benefits that may be gained. Opponents cite public health and finance dangers. These measures should be passed to expand the freedom of Texans.
Currently before the legislature are:
- House Joint Resolution 102, “Proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to legalize wagering in this state on certain sporting events;”
- House Bill 1942, “Relating to the regulation of sports wagering; requiring occupational permits; authorizing fees; imposing a tax; decriminalizing wagering on certain sports events; creating criminal offenses; providing administrative penalties; and”
- House Joint Resolution 97, “Proposing a constitutional amendment to foster economic development and job growth, provide tax relief and funding for education and public safety programs, and reform and support the horse racing industry by authorizing casino gaming at destination resorts, creating the Texas Gaming Commission, authorizing sports wagering, requiring a license to conduct casino gaming, and requiring the imposition of a gaming and sports wagering tax and license application fees.”
Supporters of these measures claim that regulating (and taxing) online sports betting will help fight crime and generate more tax revenue for the state. Allowing the construction and operation of casinos will create more jobs, generate more tax revenue, and thereby promote more economic growth and development.
Opponents, however, argue that casinos will cause a hike in domestic violence and spousal abuse as people—especially men—who lose money gambling take out their frustrations at home. Moreover, casinos aren’t always the moneymakers their supporters say they are.
Actually, whether these measures will lead to the economic benefits their supporters predict, or the public health and finance problems of which their opponents warn, the measures should be supported because their enactment and implementation will expand the scope of freedom within which Texans can live.
As a general rule, adults should be able to pursue whatever lifestyles they choose, as long as their choices neither hurt nor otherwise infringe on the rights of others. For that reason, as a former city council member and a current opinion writer, and even though I never touch alcohol or use tobacco myself, I:
- Always supported the efforts of restaurant owners to obtain liquor licenses so they could sell their patrons beer and wine;
- Spoke and wrote in favor of the propositions which, when adopted by the voters, made legal the sale of beer, wine, and liquor in Erath County; and
- Opposed measures to ban smoking in restaurants, arguing that restaurant owners themselves should have the right to permit smoking anywhere, somewhere, or nowhere on their private property.
As far as gambling is concerned, adults should have the right and opportunity—if they so choose—to gamble, as long as they’re gambling only their own money. If they win more? Good for them. And if they lose? Too bad, so sad. It’s their problem. They have no right to make it anyone else’s.
Of course, no right is without limits, and with the exercise of any right comes the obligation to do so responsibly, to not hurt others or take away their rights, and to always accept the consequences of one’s choices. Drunkenness is no excuse for misconduct. Smokers who contract lung cancer or related illnesses brought on by smoking or other uses for tobacco have nobody to blame but themselves. Losing money gambling absolves nobody of financial obligations or the obligation to at the very least abstain from domestic violence, or any other sort, for that matter. Otherwise, they should be prosecuted and, if the facts so warrant, imprisoned until they’re no longer a threat to anyone.
And it should go without saying that while those who would develop and run casinos should have a perfect right to work within the law to do so, they should receive no tax breaks or any other form of governmental aid that would put them at a competitive advantage over anyone else. They’re entitled to use their own money to legally try to turn a profit, while remembering success is not guaranteed. If they succeed, good for them. If they fail—too bad, so sad, better luck next time.
So the legislature should pass these measures. They won’t make anyone gamble if they don’t want to. They’ll simply create opportunities from which people may (or may not) profit. More importantly, passage of these measures will diminish the instances in which Texas may otherwise act as a nanny state, trying to protect adults from risks they should be allowed to assume for themselves, provided they accept the consequences of their actions.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.