The odds always appear long for passing bills to expand gambling in Texas, but every two years, unrelenting proponents hope for a lucky break.
For the legislative session that will begin in a couple of weeks, various gambling pushers will be returning with more unity than they have seen in a long time.
But even if the groups - which have been at odds in the past -- share a vision for casinos in Texas, they could face a daunting task in 2013, especially since passing a gambling bill would take the support of two-thirds of both chambers and voters' approval in a statewide referendum.
Bill Miller, an Austin political consultant and lobbyist, said gambling is always a tough sell for proponents, but this time around, a high level of cohesiveness could be a game changer. That's because the factions won't be working to kill one another's measures.
"They dramatically increase their chances," Miller said.
Still, pro-gambling organizations can expect opposition.
Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which advocates spending restraint, said he and many conservative lawmakers will oppose gambling.
First, a lot of conservatives don't buy proponents' argument that Texans' money is going out of state and benefiting other economies, Sullivan said. Just look at Louisiana and Las Vegas; they each have struggling economies, he said. Heightened expenses for social services, greater law enforcement needs and more regulation all represent high costs that come with expanded gambling, Sullivan said.
Also, Sullivan, whose group is an influential force in the Legislature, said he opposes expanded gambling because it has the potential to breed new levels of cronyism. Only politically connected people would get licenses to operate casinos, Sullivan said.
"That's not free market capitalism," he said.
To make things even harder, social conservatives and Christian groups are always ready to fight gambling because they see it as immoral.
But even with long odds and plenty of opposition, gambling proponents are heading into the 83rd legislative session with a certain degree of optimism.
John Montford -- a former state senator and the front man for Let Texans Decide -- said his organization has seen increased interest in letting voters decide whether gambling should be expanded in Texas beyond the state-run lottery, horse racing and dog racing.
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