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AS SEEN IN THE DAILY NEWS: Give Galveston the Vote

In early February 2023 Texas Newspaper Hall of Famer and past Galveston Daily News publisher, Dolph Tillostson wrote in his editorial comment that if casinos come to Texas, “Galveston must be a part of that.” Below is a rerun of President and Portfolio Manager at Kempner Capital Management, Inc., Mr. Harris “Shrub” Kempner’s thoughts on the matter.

THE DEVIL YOU SAY! First [Dolph] completely omits the fact that we resoundingly defeated casinos for Galveston in three separate straw polls in the 1980s, each time by about 60-40 in large turnouts. In that decade, we were much worse off economically than we are now. So, why did we citizens vote firmly against casinos on the island 60-40 each time? Let me count the ways.

  1. For many, it was due to religious principles. It still is.

  2. Many thought and still realize that Galveston’s tight geography means huge casino hotels will destroy present neighborhoods near the seawall. Atlantic City’s limited geography resembles Galveston’s. Please look at the destruction that happened there.

  3. Some were concerned about corruption of the City officials by casino owners. See anywhere, but particularly Atlantic City.

  4. Many noted that casino tourists would be coming mostly in multiple buses, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Do we want that? We sure didn’t then. Bus into casinos, stay in casinos, and leave town in bus fleets daily, fouling up our lives far more than we presently experience from tourist traffic.

  5. Many objected, because we realize that casinos would not help local business, despite their glitter. On the contrary, casinos provide everything they can to keep people inside as long as possible during their visits. This tends to exclude shopping outside for anything.

  6. Many people perceive maybe the present employment source would be driven out by casino intrusion into the community. Bad money chasing out good.

  7. Many think, because we know from research that no matter how few are specified in the first bills, the history around the country is that many more casinos will follow in a few years. We don’t believe “just one!” “Nose under the tent” is the real concept.

  8. And, of course, many in the 1980s voted against casinos due to a combination of the above arguments.

So, many of us then and many now believe casinos would be terrible for Galveston. The main thing now is to have a choice at all. That’s what the City and others are calling for as a part of any casino permission bill passed by the legislature. Most proposed bills just impose it on a locale whether they want it or not. Give us a choice at least to dispute Dolph’s formula by our votes.

Without discussion, the House State Affairs Committee approved legislation Monday April 3, 2023, that would let voters decide whether to legalize casinos and online sports betting in Texas. The legislation still has a long way to go. The expansion of gambling would require changes to the Texas Constitution — requiring two-thirds majorities in both chambers. That seems increasingly unlikely, however, as the Senate has signaled little appetite for the bills. If approved by voters, House Bill 2843 would permit casino gambling in Texas, and House Bill 1942 would legalize online sports betting, such as on cellphones. The casino bill would additionally allow sports wagering.


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