BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Don't look now, but Texas could be the next state to gamble on casinos. There's a proposal in the Lone Star state asking the Texas legislature to approve a sweeping resort casino plan that also legalizes slot machines at race tracks, and on tribal Indian lands.
On Wednesday, that proposal was debated in the Texas state capitol.
"If we're going to do this, let's do it on such a scale that we get the best bang, the best value, for Texas dollars," said Democratic Rep. Jose Menendez of San Antonio.
He's one of the lawmakers who's pushing Texas to take a gamble on the casino industry.
Casino developers believe Texas is a prime spot to build large casino resorts that offer what Mississippi casinos offer -- shows, restaurants, and shopping that can lure gamblers, and conventions to Texas cities.
"Destination resort is the way to go," Sheldon Adelson testified during the committee hearing.
Adelson is the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
The gambling proponents want to keep gaming cash in Texas and use some of the casino taxes on needs like college scholarships and road building.
"We have loads and loads of buses going across the state lines," said Rep. Chente Quintanilla, reminding her colleagues that those people would be more apt to gamble at home if Texas approved casino gambling.
A Texas gaming law would certainly impact south Mississippi casinos, because this area is where some of those buses go.
In a survey done by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau last fall, 77 percent of the people who vacationed here spent time at a casino. And many of those people were from the Lone Star state.
Texas ranked in the top four of states that sent the most visitors to our area (Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi were the other three). And when Texans come here, they tend to stay for awhile. The typical visitor surveyed last fall stayed on the coast nearly four nights. That benefits south Mississippi casinos, hotels, restaurants, and shops.
WLOX News and WLOX.com will take a closer look at the survey results on April 26-27. Our focus those nights will be on south Mississippi's tourism industry. We'll ask the question, "Where have all the tourists gone." We'll look at how tourism in this post-Katrina world has changed. And we'll see how those changes are impacting the lives of people who work in the tourism industry.