The Texas House cast a shocking vote on Tuesday to dismantle the state lottery -- only to reverse itself after a few frantic hours.
House Bill 2197 began as a seemingly routine proposal to continue the operations of the Texas Lottery Commission until September 2025. But opposition mounted after tea party lawmakers called the lottery a de-facto tax on the poor, and suddenly the Republican-controlled chamber was voting 82-64 to defeat the measure and abolish the commission.
Those leading the charge to oppose reauthorization were largely first-year Republican legislators. During a subsequent lunch break, however, party leadership urged many to change their vote.
The House eventually approved a measure to reconsider, then voted to reauthorize the Lottery Commission until at least September 2025 by a vote of 91-53.
The reversal was necessary since the lottery accounts for more than $2 billion in state revenue per two-year budget cycle. Indeed, those funds have already been built into the proposed state budget currently being considered by the Legislature.
Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat who sponsored the measure continuing Lottery Commission operations, said he understood some lawmakers have philosophical and religious objections to the lottery. But he said Tuesday's reauthorization vote was less about whether the lottery was moral and more about whether the state could live without it, finding $2 billion elsewhere to make up for the would-be deficit.
Anchia said that if the lottery were discontinued, it would also cost veterans groups $26 million.