More Money, More Problems?
Story By Lyndsey Garza
If you read my article published in May’s issue, then you as a faithful Islander reader received the facts regarding the legislative processes that will need to occur in order to have the fate of gambling be decided upon by the residents of Texas in a popular vote. You also received the breakdown of how the legalized gaming supporters have proposed the state would distribute the millions of dollars worth of tax revenue received from casinos and slot machines. If you missed last month’s issue, or are picking up The Islander Magazine for the first time, you can find it on the publication’s website: www.theislandermagazine.com. This month, I am going to address the debate between pro-gaming and anti-gaming parties and my thoughts on how it could affect Galveston Island’s economy.
Supporters of legalizing gaming within Texas have been at this for over 20 years. They recently have been able to catch the spotlight due to the Texas budget shortfall, which has been quoted anywhere from $15 to $27 billion dollars, depending upon who you talk to. As mentioned in my previous article, Texans generally do not want any kind of tax imposed upon them, whether it’s necessary to begin correcting this historical budget deficit or not. Our state is simply looking for other alternatives, and they just are not there. The option that we are facing currently is to stop funding basic federal programs, such as education (because none of us are concerned about the options of education and grant/federal aid money that are and will be available for our children and grandchildren, right? That makes sense to go ahead and cut funds here in this account.).
Ummm…wrong. This is simply an option that I am not happy to watch unfold on the evening news. Katy ISD let go of teachers, mind you interrupted their classes, to let them know that they were expendable, then promptly replaced by a more cost effective replacement, the substitute. What?! Obviously, money is the driving benefit gaming supporters are focused on. The laws proposed to be implemented with the legalization of gaming often require steep taxes from the operators that purchase the licenses needed to run their establishment. The revenue that would be obtained from the patrons would provide even more cash that would benefit the state, as well as the local city and county the establishment was located in. Employment would increase in a 30-mile radius of any casino or slot location. Have you seen the amount of people needed to fully staff these resort casinos offering hotel rooms, food and beverage choices, entertainment through shows and concerts, janitorial and custodial needs, marketing and sales? I could go on and on. These casinos are done in a grand fashion, also bringing construction back to the island, which in itself carries a lot of jobs and a pool of employees deeply hurt by the economy and ready to work. In response to the increased employment that would bring to the area, I get a lot of replies about the low-middle income jobs that casinos tend to offer. People say, “These types of jobs will only attract low-average income families to populate the island, not a strong tax base.”
The island needs any major contributor to its employment options, period. After Ike, the island could only stand by and watch in horror as its number one employer, the University of Texas Medical Branch lay off over 3,000 people. This was a devastating economic blow to the island, its businesses that support the school, and the residents that owned those businesses. This hit was felt by many more than just 3,000 UTMB employees. Also, I am shocked to hear that Galveston would suffer from a low-average income family living here. I think that most of the residents of the city that reside here full time behind the Seawall quite frankly are those families. Why not get more job options that create proud residents who would be proactive in the future and stability of our truly vulnerable island? Much of the gaming tax revenue would also be put towards property tax relief for these proud, employed, home-owning residents of Galveston. Why not just make life better?
Tourism, the number one industry on the island, would boom. Gaming would not take over what this island already has gained in the past century — the concept that Galveston Island is not just a tar covered beach, but is a destination and second home haven for Houstonians. As an island, we already have so much to offer families, beach lovers, history buffs, nature lovers, art enthusiasts, shopping addicts; there really is something for everyone on the island. This increase in the tourism industry would positively impact many of our residents who own local businesses, as well as the true entrepreneurs amongst us. It would also attract the larger hotel and restaurant chains, looking to make money. These all need more employees. Other anti-gaming supporters speak about the moral dilemmas that would be faced by the general population when gambling is legalized in an area. These moral dilemmas would include crime, drugs and many other problems that Galveston has never experienced. Really? Crime is here, drugs have been and will continue to circulate throughout any community (yes, even Kingwood and Plano). The increased amount of visitors will also be cause for a larger police and fire department to deal with these issues. I think we all can agree that these particular areas of the city have been victims of the pinch lately. Personally, I would prefer it if the City of Galveston could overstaff these positions, please?
Again, you will not find many other Islander lovers and supporters (BOI at heart) who want to see this island grow and prosper more than I do. I am simply stating my opinions about a business decision that would impact our community, and what I see as a golden ticket. This island, despite change, will always have its problems, whether we vote them in or allow our elected officials to do their jobs making decisions. I am simply speaking the truth regarding the present state of the island’s economy, as well as the itching call for change that has caught my attention recently. Well, in my opinion, at least.