April 14, 2014

Commission should avoid slot look-alikes

The Legislature and voters are closely shepherding gambling expansion.

It would be foolish of the Texas Lottery Commission to approve an item on its Wednesday agenda that would allow bingo halls to use devices similar to slot machines, despite protests by promoters who say that’s a mischaracterization of what they’re asking.

Commissioners should acknowledge that the issue is too hot for them to handle.

Since 1981, when the Legislature first approved state-regulated bingo to raise money for charities, it has been clear that lawmakers — and Texans themselves through their votes on constitutional amendments — want to be close shepherds of gambling expansion and anything that looks like it.

The proposal before the commission would let bingo players use “video confirmation” to show whether their pull-tab bingo cards are winners.

A commission spokeswoman said that cards would still be printed on paper tickets and that the electronic devices would have “no role in determining the ticket’s outcome.”

Supporters say they want “the opportunity to utilize new game technology to attract bingo customers and increase sales.”

In 2011, bingo in Texas was a $700 million industry.

The Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, a powerful opponent of increased gambling in the state, has objected to the new technology.

The Lottery Commission should leave this fight to the Legislature and the voters.

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