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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 29, 2011

The deck may now be stacked against the legalization of gambling in Texas, thanks to one state senator.

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The Big Conversation:

The deck may now be stacked against the legalization of gambling in Texas, thanks to one state senator.

With a House committee set to start hearing testimony on legislation aimed at legalizing several types of gambling, the Houston Chronicle reports that state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, has said he won't bring up any such legislation in the Senate State Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

"There is no support in my committee," Duncan says. "I just don't think there are the votes in the Senate. I don't see any chance of passage."

That's a blow to gambling proposals, which arguably stood their best shot at passage in years with lawmakers scrounging to fill a $15 billion to $27 billion state budget hole this session.

The Texas Gaming Association, which released a poll Monday showing that 86 percent of Texans want to vote on whether to legalize casinos in the state, claims that a combination of casinos, racetracks with slot machines and Indian casinos would bring in $1.2 billion in taxes for the state every year.

In a TT Interview with the Tribune's Ross Ramsey, the gaming association's chairman, Jack Pratt, said, "No governor has ever proposed to de-legalize casinos. It has provided a good source of jobs and a good source of revenue … and no legislator has been able to give me any real theory of why this is not an industry that is not acceptable."

But Duncan, according to the Chronicle, says casinos would take years to build and wouldn't help the state with its current budget woes. "A lot of us have strong opposition to using gaming to solve our budget problems," he says. "We've got a lot of other pressing issues to deal with. It is not my intent to bring it up for a hearing."

Culled:

  • The New York Times has followed up its controversial story on a brutal gang rape case in Cleveland, Texas, with an extensive look back at the three months during which 19 males who have been charged — "an eclectic group of young men, some with criminal records, who shared a powerful neighborhood bond" — are said to have assaulted her.
  • With top Republican presidential contenders' favorability ratings dropping, Texas Monthly's Paul Burka thinks he's seen this movie before — and it stars Gov. Rick Perry. "The fates have so arranged the universe that the person in the right place at the right time is going to be Rick Perry," he writes on BurkaBlog. "Frontrunners are dropping all around him. I’m not kidding, folks."

"Our campus is very attentive to this and very worried about it. And I would say that involves faculty, administration, deans and students."Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas, to the Austin American-Statesman on controversial higher education reforms championed by a new hire at the UT System Board of Regents who has questioned the value of academic research at universities

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