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Beto Wants to Legalize Gambling and Marijuana

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Beto O'Rourke speaking at an event. | Image by Vic Hinterlang on Shutterstock

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Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke made a stop in Dallas’ South Oak Cliff neighborhood Wednesday, where he laid out his plan to reduce property taxes.

Beto explained that adding additional revenue streams, such as legalized gambling and marijuana, might reduce the state’s dependence on property taxes to fund critical services. Currently, local governments set rates and collect property taxes to fund schools, police and fire departments, street repairs, public hospitals, and hundreds of other services.

O’Rourke claimed that legalized casino gambling and sports betting would add “billions” to the state and help reduce inflation and property taxes.

“If we were to make legal casino gambling and sports betting in the State of Texas — which as you all know many Texans engage in now, it’s only that those revenues go to other states and to other state governments — we would be able to bring in billions of dollars more,” Beto O’Rourke said.

“And from listening to Texans from across the state, one, it’s a very popular proposal, and two, I think it would also help us to address some of the challenges we have in reducing inflation and property taxes in the State of Texas,” he added.

Possibly legalizing gambling arose as a topic during the 87th regular legislative session last year, but lawmakers expressed conflicting views. Bills to legalize sports gambling never made it past their committees in both the State House and Senate.

Parties against legal gambling cite the risks of addiction and negative family values. Texas Values is one advocacy group that has considerable influence among Republican lawmakers. The Austin-based group describes its vision as standing “for biblical, Judeo-Christian values by ensuring Texas is a state in which religious liberty flourishes, families prosper, and every human life is valued.”

“We don’t support legalization of casinos in Texas. It’s not good for families and it’s not good for the economy,” Jonathan Covey, director of policy for Texas Values, told The Texan last year.

Beto went on to claim that legal recreational marijuana would add a billion dollars in revenue to the state.

“Right now, we spend half a billion dollars locking people up for a substance that is legal in most of the rest of the country — most of the rest of the developed world,” O’Rourke said. “We also lose out on, conservatively speaking, half a billion dollars in tax revenue if we were to tax the regulated and controlled sale of marijuana.”

Beto also claimed that expanding Medicaid would reduce public hospitals’ spending on treatment for uninsured residents. He added that he would implement tighter regulations on corporations lobbying for lower taxes and protesting their property valuations, which cost the state millions of dollars.

“None of us homeowners can hire the attorneys or lobbyists to do that,” Beto said. “We’ve got to make sure it’s a fair system. And today it’s not.”

O’Rourke blamed high property taxes squarely on his Republican rival, Governor Greg Abbott.

“He’s the single greatest driver of inflation in the state of Texas and it’s causing real pain to our fellow Texans right now,” said O’Rourke.

Abbott’s Twitter account fired back at O’Rourke’s claims.

“O’Rourke is so fake. Only now he wants to combat property taxes. When he was in office, he REPEATEDLY voted to RAISE property taxes. (’06, ’07, ’10) He’s combating the property taxes that he raised. Every Session I’ve been Governor we have CUT taxes,” said Abbott.

At an event in Kingwood in January, Gov. Abbott claimed that he has lowered property taxes every session since he’s been the governor.

Abbott says his “taxpayer bill of rights” plan calls for state funds to reduce local school district tax rates, makes it easier for homeowners to protest their appraisals, and gives people who pay their taxes early a discount.

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