Joe Straus’s Gambling Problem

Gambling and conservatives are typically considered strange bedfellows and rightly so. However one exception to that pre assumed rule is to be noted in the State of Texas. The exception is Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

Questioned in 2011 about where he stood on gambling Straus side stepped the question. “I’m clearly not opposed to it, but I’m clearly not engaged in that issue.” It’s no wonder Straus is opposed to speaking his mind on this issue since his family has an 80 year history in the horse racing industry. Any attempt to curb gambling would have an effect in some way on their part in the industry. Noted too in the response to the gambling issue should be Speaker Straus’ refusal to talk about it at all “My family has been involved in horse racing and breeding and the racing industry for 80 years, and because of that personal involvement, I’ve recused myself from anything concerning gaming as it relates to race tracks, so I don’t even have conversations with people about it.”

Whenever you hear politicians using broad statements to clarify their position you typically assume they are evading dealing with the issue at hand. So when you hear a politician excuse themselves from a discussion you should be just as concerned with their conviction on that issue.

Gambling in Texas is simply, a big government ally. Every time someone purchases a lottery ticket, that is money in fee’s, for the State Government of Texas.

Yet gambling has farther reaching implications for the State of Texas than just money in the pocket of big brother government. A 2005 study released by Texas Public Policy Foundation shows gambling brings with it job losses and a decrease in wages. A particularly interesting excerpt from the study was this, “In communities where casinos have added new jobs and created businesses that cater to gamblers, the end result may not represent economic development or net financial gain. There are well-documented costs that are associated with gambling” These include:

  1. Criminal justice costs increase 8 to 13 percent;
  2. State lottery revenue decreases approximately 10 percent;
  3. Revenues from taxes on non-gambling goods and services decline as discretionary spending is redirected to gambling; and
  4. Jobs are lost in non-gambling businesses.

The aforementioned facts are extremely important because they show the important incongruity of a conservative supporting gambling. The reasons are plentiful to oppose legislation that would increase gambling and to support legislation ending it. Why then would the Republican Speaker of the Texas House excuse himself from the discussion? The answer is simple. Once you start down a path to deal with an issue you will eventually have to show conviction in one direction or another. Once you begin there is no going back and Speaker Straus cannot afford to start down that path.

The Studies quoted were taken from a 2005 study by TPPF

Quotes for Speaker Straus were taken from a April 2011 article in the Dallas Morning News.

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