Dallas City Council members are questioning whether casino gambling should be legalized in Texas.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the Economic Development Committee considered casino gambling as a legislative priority in its last meeting, prompting a debate among officials about whether the City should support its legalization.

Some council members say legalizing casinos could provide a new source of taxes that could be used to fund City needs, like the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. However, others argued bringing gambling to Dallas might bring more crime and disproportionately impact lower-income residents.

The subject was taken up again this week by the Government Performance and Financial Management Committee.

Council Member Jesse Moreno said, “We’re the ninth-largest city [in the United States], and I believe we should have a vibrant nightlife for visitors and residents alike without adding a burden to our public safety.”

Staff said they are working on a study on the impact of the nightlife economy on the City of Dallas. Council members said they await more data to help determine what they will support.

“I’m looking forward to the full council briefing because I think the numbers will be a bigger story that will give the direction in which we need to go,” said Council Member Paula Blackmon.

Pennsylvania politician Rich Fitzgerald spoke virtually to the committee about the impact casino gambling has had in that region. He argued that casinos spurred economic development, brought jobs, and provided taxes for city and county governments.

“The City of Pittsburgh receives about $10 million a year. … We receive a little bit less than that at the county — maybe about $8 million a year,” he said. “To put that in perspective, our operating budget at the county level is about $1 billion. So it’s not necessarily a big item, but it is a recurring revenue that has gone up every year.”

Fitzgerald added that he “hasn’t seen much” of increased crime tied to the casinos.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Legislative Affairs is scheduled to consider legislative priorities on February 1 before a full council briefing on February 21.

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn, chair of the legislative affairs committee, said City officials are behind schedule in submitting suggestions for legislative priorities.

During the most recent Economic Development Committee meeting, some council members supported casino gambling legalization, while others were more reserved.

“It would make our police and fire pension systems more sustainable statewide,” argued Council Member Adam Bazaldua, referring to the additional taxes casinos could provide, as previously covered by DX.

Council Member Carolyn King Arnold advised that it is “not wise” to “rush” this item and expressed concerns about the impact casino gambling would have on lower-income Dallas communities and public safety across the city.