Millions of dollars of tax revenue are the catalyst behind a recent proposal to amend Tennessee’s law to allow casinos and gambling. Democrat Representative Jason Powell is aware of the tax dollars Tennesseans are spending in Mississippi at their casinos, and he wants to retain those funds by allowing state-run gaming on his own turf.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission stated 30 percent of the revenue from gaming in their Northern River Region came from people living in Tennessee. With millions of dollars up for grabs, Powell is hoping that legislatures see the fiscal potential in his proposal.
The existing amendment, Article 9 Section 5, explicitly prohibits games of chance as in slot machines or electronic bingo. Powell’s hope is that the General Assembly takes into consideration that three surrounding states: Georgia, Virginia and Kentucky have effectively legalized gambling and generate healthy tax revenues from it.
Powell’s amendment proposes that the General Assembly adjust the regulations concerning the lottery, as other states have successfully used this strategy to get approval.
The proposal dictates that the added revenue will be used to fund educational opportunities for children in grades K-12 and for addiction programs. Powell’s goal is to have most of the money fund these types of community-enhancing opportunities.
The potential for people to become gambling addicts does not seem to be a real threat. Dr. James Whelan, Co-Director of the University of Memphis Gambling Education and Research Lab indicated that legalizing casino gambling in Tennessee would not create more addicts, it would simply provide addicts with access to more opportunities to lose money.
Whelan’s studies indicate that 90% of the people with gambling addiction problems as currently defined do not allow the condition to affect their lives. The money spent was within normal entertainment budgets for most when reflected on the average income of Tennessee locals who gamble across state lines or on the internet.
The process of making gaming legal in Tennessee is not going to be easy feet. Whether Representative Powell convinces Tennesseans that they are losing millions to other state’s casinos and that they should be trying to take their share remains to be seen.
As of March 25, 2015, the proposal was presented before the House’s State Government Subcommittee, where they requested a summer study before they make a determination about the bill.
Depending on how the General Assembly views the bill after a summer study will determine what committee will vote on the proposal. Speculations surrounding the bill indicate The House of Representatives Clerk’s office will get the bill and forward it to the Finance Ways and Means Commission.
Others propose that the bill will be forwarded to the Calendar and Rules Committee and then directly to the House Floor. It is likely the amendment would be expedited in this way if the research continues to be positive.
Note from the Author
What really upsets me here is that they are talking about class-II electronic bingo machines, not real casinos that have table games and slot machines from major companies, even though they may look similar. Here is a quick read that shows it is nothing short of legalized crime.
The return to the player is substantially less on bingo machines, meaning for every dollar that is wagered, much less is paid back compared to real casinos. Add in the possible increase in tax from winning jackpots and you can see how it is not certainly not designed with the player in mind.