DALLAS - The next governor and the legislature will have to deal with a huge budget gap of perhaps more than $20 billion.
In our WFAA-Belo-Texas poll, likely voters told us they support more gambling to help the budget.
But how far will that go in the legislature?
Our poll found a majority of likely voters want more than just betting on horses at tracks like Lone Star Park.
“It tells me that Texans are looking at other ways to get revenue to balance the budget,” says Mike Lavigne of Win for Texas, the marketing arm for Texans for Economic Development that represents horse track owners.
“We're looking at very tough session coming up in terms of our fiscal needs,” Lavigne adds.
Fifty eight percent favor slot machines and video lottery terminals at horse race tracks.
Fifty four percent support legalizing casinos.
But opponents, like the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, hope to block more gambling as they've done before, as spokesman Rob Kohler explained, “The moral argument is that your are taking advantage of poor people.”
Kohler points to studies by the Texas Lottery Commission showing the lottery relies more and more on the less educated and poor for revenue.
And many lawmakers don't want to anger voters strongly religious and organized and those who just don’t like gambling as a way to raise state revenue.
But Lavigne says say what they want isn't the same. “The sort of facilities we would like to see built at the racetracks are large scale destination facilities. The lottery is nothing like that at all.”
They're trying to influence candidates to state offices like nothing before.
The Dallas Morning News found horse track interests put more than $4.2 million into campaigns in the year ending June 30th.
Gaming interests also can argue this time their good corporate citizens.
Shreveport Police say crime went down since casinos opened in 1994.
The battle opens in January for lawmakers to decide if voters will get to have their say.
Kohler says of casinos and slots at tracks, “It hadn't worked for the lottery and it won't work for this either, we believe.”
Public Strategies conducted a statewide telephone poll of 1,000 registered voters in Texas September 27-October 2, 2010 on behalf of BELO. The sample included 704 likely voters – those who say they vote in “most” or “all” school, local and primary elections. The margin of error for random sample of 704 likely voters is ±3.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval.
To ensure the sample was representative of the population of Texas, weights were applied to the full sample on gender, age, ethnicity and party affiliation. All respondents were screened to ensure they are registered voters. To filter for likely voters, respondents were also screened to ensure they vote in most or all school, local and primary elections.