No, Texas, Don’t Combine Gambling With An Indoor Waterpark


Despite all the hoo-ha over sports betting since PASPA got trashed — and we’re chief hoo-ha-ists over here at US Bets — it’s remarkable to think that only 44% of the nation (according to GeoComply) has access to legal sportsbooks, be they in person or mobile.

Of course, one of the big states that we’re all still waiting on is Texas, home to nearly 10% of the nation’s population and, if Gov. Greg Abbott is to be believed, also home to people who love a good dip in a lazy, highly chlorinated, and, quite probably, urine-filled river.

When asked by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram what he hopes for when it comes to expanding legalized gambling in Texas, his answer was, “It’s a gaming version of the Great Wolf Lodge.”

‘A gaming version of the Great Wolf Lodge’: How Governor Greg Abbott sees casinos in Texas — @EllyDearman @startelegram

— Jon Taylor (@ProfJonTaylor) February 24, 2023

Well, I’m guessing Abbott never took his now-adult daughter to a Great Wolf Lodge as a child, because if he did — and assuming Abbott isn’t clinically insane — he would never say that his version of a gambling haven looks, feels, or, yes, smells like a Great Wolf Lodge.

I have been to a Great Wolf Lodge. I have stayed at a Great Wolf Lodge. And if a “gaming version” of the Great Wolf Lodge is all I am offered as a citizen of the fine state of Texas, I am not going to be gambling within state borders.

“If it can be built in a way that is, kind of like a professional operation that provides a form of entertainment for people, that’s something I can be open to,” Abbott went on to say, and the Star-Telegram highlighted some current options on the table, including one proposal that would allow for seven resort-style casinos to be built in Texas. No mention of whether “waterpark designed by an overzealous Hell, Inc. desk jockey with hopes Satan bumps him up to middle management” would be added to the list of amenities.

Literal or not, who cares

To be fair, I’m sure (?) Abbott doesn’t mean this literally. I mean, that would be bad, right? A kids’ waterpark inside a casino? I’m sure he was just metaphorizing.

But uh … you know how people say things like, “I would never wish that upon my worst enemy” when some terrible tragedy befalls them? Yeah, well, screw that. I wish a weekend at the Great Wolf Lodge upon my worst enemy. (His name is Bill and his tie goes about four inches below his belt. That’s enough for me to make an enemy.)

Not only are you surrounded by hordes of children at a Great Wolf Lodge, you will also — and this I vow — look at your own brood and begin to question your life’s decision tree. You could’ve stayed single, moved to Key West, and been a Hemmingway wannabe, whiling your days away with Cuba libres, sunsets, and divorcees.

Instead, you’re in an indoor waterpark with humidity levels not seen since the Jurassic era, it’s louder than a backfiring 747, and the lines are as long as folks queuing up for soup during the Great Depression, except at least those people were objectively happier than you are right now.

I guess all I’m trying to say here is to not put a heated incubator for all manner of disease that is populated by a teeming mass of annoying children next to a blackjack table or a sportsbook. Only bad things will happen. 

When I think of my weekend at the Great Wolf Lodge — and my second weekend at the equally horrible Kalahari — my memories are all jumbled. Am I remembering a weekend with my family, or am I remembering the end of the fifth episode of HBO’s The Last of Us? (Warning: graphic content below, but nothing a veteran of a weekend at an indoor waterpark hasn’t already seen.)

But wait, there’s more.

Have I mentioned you can drink booze at these places? Not only in the adjacent restaurants (“Table for four? Sure, your table will be ready in about 15 minutes, or when The Simpsons airs its final episode, whichever comes last”), but also in the waterpark itself.

Now, in a best-case scenario, you have drunk parents allowing their weird kids to frolic about a waterpark unsupervised, thinking their children are safe because they’re in a contained, if potentially urine-filled, environment.

But at least these drunk parents are, supposedly, happy drunks. Or at least “well, may as well make the most of this stupid idea” drunks.

But what happens when dad drops $500 at the roulette wheel, or mom blows $1,000 on a Cowboys moneyline bet? (Keep running Ezekiel Elliott into the line, you dimwits.) Then what?

Then you have angry and depressed drunk parents allowing their weird kids to frolic about a waterpark unsupervised, thinking their kids are safe because they’re in a contained, if potentially urine-filled, environment.

Granted, we’re talking degrees of terrible here, but still, gambling, booze, and waterparks — and high humidity, bad food, incessant screaming, and enough children to seed a successful Mars civilization — doesn’t exactly sound like fun. It sounds like punishment. I’d sooner do a year in Sing Sing than a month at Great Wolf.

So, to the fine people of Texas and to the members of the “eh, democracy, shmamocracy, let’s just meet every two years” legislature, I implore you: Do not take Abbott literally here. Do not, for one second, think about putting a waterpark inside a casino. 

Can’t you just not Texas-size the whole thing and just let people wager from the comfort of their couch like the rest of civilization? No need to bring Bill and his long tie and stupid kids into this.

Photo: Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Author: Ryan Gonzales