AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas Lottery Commission won't be abolished after all.
Undoing a stunning earlier vote that jeopardized the lottery, the House on Tuesday reversed itself and reauthorized the Lottery Commission.
Lawmakers had voted not to reauthorize the commission through September 2025 — potentially costing the state more than $2 billion in lottery revenue.
During a subsequent lunch recess, however, lawmakers were urged to reconsider by party leadership.
They eventually did, and the commission was reauthorized on a second vote. Without reauthorization, the commission would have wound down and ceased to exist by September 2014.
The state budget already under consideration in the Legislature has factored in $1.04 billion annually to public schools from the lottery.
If that had disappeared, it would have created a deficit lawmakers would have had to fill.
"There are more members than I thought who are against the lottery and just have a psychological aversion of it," said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who sponsored the failed bill.
The state Senate has yet to consider the matter, but it can't because the so-called "sunset bill" on the Lottery Commission initiated in the House.
had the original vote stood, there could have been no one to operate the lottery, which means a potential loss of $1.04 billion in annual revenue for the Permanent School Fund and $27.3 million to cities and counties from charitable bingo.
The state budget already under consideration in the Legislature has factored in the $1.04 billion — and losing the lottery proceeds would create a deficit lawmakers would need to fill.
Anchia noted that Veterans of Foreign Wars bingo generates $2.2 billion in every two-year state budget, and that $26 million would also be lost from a veterans' scratch-off game.
"I don't think anybody loves the lottery, absolutely loves it," Anchia said. But he added, "I didn't foresee this bill as a referendum on the lottery, but it certainly materialized that way."
After the measure was introduced, Republican Rep. Scott Sanford, a tea party favorite from McKinney, rose to oppose it on "the moral grounds that the lottery is a tax on poor people."
"It is therefore immoral and wrong," Sanford said, noting that state residents without high school degrees tend to spend $600 annually on the lottery while those with graduate school-level educations spend about a fourth of that.
His appeal drew applause from conservative Republicans but also from a few liberal Democrats.
After a few tense moments, Houston Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner pointed out that the state budget currently being considered by the Legislature relies on more than $2 billion for public education from the lottery. "Those dollars are gone at this moment," he said.
Texas has had a lottery since voters approved a 1991 constitutional amendment authorizing one. The Lottery Commission was created two years later.
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