As far as the expansion of legal gambling in Texas goes, one step forward and two steps back might be how things play out.
But a bill to authorize quick draw lottery games in Lone Star State bars would represent a step forward.
The bill recently advanced out of a House committee. It faces challenges, despite the benefits that proponents argue it could provide.
What are quick draw lottery games?
The Texas Lottery offers daily draw-style games, in which you pick a set of numbers from a designated pool. Then, you await the drawing to see how many of the numbers on your ticket match those in the drawing. If you get some matches, you win. At the moment, it’s the only form of legal gambling on offer. The state currently bans commercial casinos and all forms of sports betting.
Quick draw games are essentially the same thing, except the drawings happen much more frequently. Under the framework suggested by HB 817, it would be 12 to 15 times per hour from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
The bill doesn’t lay out every single detail of the new lottery games. It’s silent on things like how much plays would cost, what the prizes would be and the sizes of number pools. That would all be up to the Texas Lottery Commission if the bill becomes law in its current form.
Who could offer Texas quick draw games?
The bill does specify who would be able to offer these games, however. Among them are businesses with licenses to serve alcoholic beverages to the public, like bars and taverns. The selling point from the bill’s sponsor focuses on giving those business owners a new product for consumers.
“We have asked restauranteurs and bar owners to be creative – bend over backward – to try to figure out how to exist,” Rep. Joe Moody said at a hearing of the House’s Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee.
“The least we can do as they steer out of this is to give them another tool in the toolbox to continue that creativity.”
The committee advanced the bill by a 9-0 vote, with one abstention. It now proceeds to the full body of the House, where its prospects could be daunting. As with any other perceived expansion of gambling, conservative politics could stifle the bill’s momentum.
Chances for progression depend on perspective
Whether this bill gets approval by the full House, the Senate and Gov. Greg Abbot will swing on perception. A primary question is whether lawmakers will view this as just another way to sell lottery tickets that the Texas Constitution already allows or an entirely new form of gambling.
Opponents of the bill have already stated they feel the machinations of the games are too similar to casino games. Therefore, they believe an additional amendment is the only way to legalize them.
However, the reality is that lottery players in Texas already have the ability to buy tickets for draw-style games from other licensed retailers with great frequency if they wish. It’s possible to view this as just expanding what types of businesses can sell tickets and how often drawings happen.
Then there’s the portion of lobbyists and officials who staunchly oppose any expansion of gambling on principle. That’s the reason why many attempts to legalize casino gaming in the state, like the current one, always face uphill struggles.
Should this bill become law, that might be a sign of that lobby losing sway over the legislature. It could also mean a new way to keep patrons spending money at Texas restaurants moving forward.