Could legalized sports betting fund Texas education?

AUSTIN (Nexstar) - State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, wants to legalize sports betting in Texas, and has drafted a bill to do it. This follows a ruling from the United State Supreme Court that cleared the way for each to decide whether sports betting would be allowed in its borders.

Lucio applauded the SCOTUS ruling, and said in a release he was "looking forward to beginning a conversation with my fellow members of the House this legislative session."

While his legislation remains in the early stages, he said he wanted to direct the revenue generated from sports betting to "fill gaps" in public education and "other revenue deficient state programs."

"When Texans utilize gaming in other states, they are paying for Louisiana public schools and New Mexico roads," Lucio explained. "It's time to keep this revenue here at home."

This is not the first time Texas has tried to fund education this way. People who play into the Texas Lottery contribute to public education. The Texas Lottery website indicates the commission transferred $1.313 billion to the Foundation School Fund.

"The Texas Lottery has now contributed more than $21 billion to Texas public education," Texas Lottery spokesperson Steve Helm said. "Fiscal year 2017 was the 14th consecutive year that the Texas Lottery generated more than $1 billion in revenue for the state of Texas."

Lucio said be believed revenue generated from legal gaming would be higher than what the lottery puts out.

"Participation in the lottery isn’t what we hoped it would be," Lucio said. "I would think you’d have a significant amount of more people participate in sports gaming than they do in lottery."

According to the commission, 25.8 percent of revenue from the Lottery is transferred to education. The money that it distributed to Texas schools "could fund 19,000 teacher salaries or 22 million 5th -grade digital textbooks or 8,500 new school buses or 825,000 student computers or quality after-school programs for 400,000 students."

While there is no shortage of complaints about a lack of public school funding in the Lone Star State, the Association of Texas Professional Educators urges Texans to be wary of another plan that experts worry would not provide adequate funding.

"We will take every extra bit of funding that we can get, and we need to be using every tool in the toolbox, but even if something like this were to pass it would not negate the need for fall school finance reform and a long-term, reliable, stable source of funding for public schools," ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins said. He said any and all funding is appreciated, but argues that an the inaccurate public perception that the Texas Lottery fully funds education sets this new attempt to provide more money to schools could fail.

ATPE warned the author of any bill related to public school finance not to over-sell, explaining that it could be harmful in the long run.

"We definitely appreciate people coming up with nuanced, creative ways to try to increase the funding for schools, but at the same time let’s stay focused as well, on that permanent school finance reform," Wiggins added.

Lucio added he planned to continue to study what Texans want out of sports betting legislation.

"It’s a very viable business, it’s a business that can bring a lot of economic development to our area," he explained. "We want to do something that is regulated, that is meaningful, that doesn't interfere with any of the integrity of our communities, and that we will try and listen to each one of their concerns," 

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