The Uneasy Business of Selling Slot Machines in Gambling-Free Texas

Categories: Biz

Jeff Kubina
Unless you are wagering on horses, within the boundaries of the Kickapoo Indian reservation or placing bets directly with the state, gambling is illegal in Texas; after all, vice cops need to have something to do when they're not busting hookers, and besides, the lottery functions much better without private competition.

It's perfectly legal, however, to buy and sell what the state terms a "gambling device" -- i.e. any slot machine, 8-liner, or other contraption that accepts people's money and occasionally spits some back out. It's how Vernon Dennis makes his living.

Dennis owns Lone Star Slots, a small showroom/warehouse in Lancaster. It's tucked away in an aging, bile-hued industrial park on Interstate 35, a hard place to find unless you're looking, and even if you are, it'll probably take you a couple of circuits on the service road squinting at addresses. (Pro tip: Google Maps shows it on the wrong side of freeway.)

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Toyota's Move to Texas Had Nothing at All to Do With Those Massive Corporate Tax Incentives

On Tuesday, Toyota will break ground on its new North American headquarters in Plano. Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz is celebrating the launch of the project by pretending that Texas' outsize corporate incentives had no influence on the company's relocation.

In an interview at the North American International Auto Show with Dallas Morning News auto writer Terry Box, Lentz lists exactly two reasons for Toyota's move: to consolidate its far-flung operations, currently spread between California, Kentucky and New York, and to lure young workers. Box writes, "He also figured, though, that the layout of Toyota's U.S. offices just wasn't conducive to the sort of collaborative environment that young workers want."

Both points are probably true to a degree, but it seems worth somebody (oh, we dunno, a newspaper reporter) mentioning a few other points that might have tipped the scales for Toyota. For example:

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Questionable Science Aside, Dallas' Low T Center Is Growing Like Crazy

Categories: Biz

Sebron Snyder
SMU awarded Mike Sisk's Low T Center for being one of the fastest-growing private businesses in DFW.
The Low T Center, the growing network of clinics that injects Dallas men with testosterone and whose scientific foundation is a tad shoddy, has won an award for "ingenuity, commitment and character." SMU's Cox Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship named it one of the city's 100 fastest-growing private businesses, quite an honor for the center's owner, Mike Sisk, who styles himself a "serial entrepreneur."

"We are extremely honored to be recognized for this prestigious award and the vision that we started started five years ago," he said, according to a Low T Center press release. That vision only seems to be growing: By the end of 2015, Sisk hopes to have 120 clinics open around the country.

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Dallas Real Estate Baron Gene Phillips Hasn't Paid Taxes on His $25 Million Estate Since 2005

Categories: Biz

Google Earth
Gene Phillips' modest Preston Hollow homestead.
Gene Phillips isn't the type of homeowner the Texas Legislature had in mind when it passed a law in 1979 allowing senior citizens to indefinitely defer their property taxes. Think instead of an ailing grandmother, whose Social Security check wouldn't stretch quite far enough to cover groceries and property taxes, weeping bitterly as her home is sold on the courthouse steps.

"Essentially the law was kind of designed to avoid people over 65 being forced from their homes [by tax foreclosure]," says Charles Gilliland, a professor at Texas A&M University's Real Estate Center.

That hasn't stopped Phillips, a wealthy real estate investor with a 16-acre spread next door to George W. Bush and Tom Hicks in Preston Hollow, from taking advantage. According to Dallas County tax records, he hasn't paid any property taxes on his $25.7 million estate since 2005. His total outstanding balance -- money that under ordinary circumstances would be going to fund Dallas schools, cops, libraries and Parkland Hospital -- is $3.3 million. And all he had to do was file a tax-deferral affidavit with the Dallas County Appraisal District swearing that he's over 65, and his 18,000-square-foot home is his homestead, and he doesn't want to pay taxes on it right now.

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Bankrupt Dallas Billionaire Sam Wyly Can't Possibly Make Ends Meet on $120,000 Per Year

Categories: Biz

Sam Wyly
Erstwhile billionaire/current Dallasite Sam Wyly has fallen on hard times. The serial entrepreneur, who with his late brother Charles founded Green Mountain Energy and turned Michael's into a $1.6 billion craft-store empire, was recently dinged for around $300 million for illegally hiding financial transactions in offshore trusts to sidestep U.S. regulators and the IRS. This week brought news that the case had forced Wyly to file for bankruptcy. Poor guy.

Now, adding insult to injury, the feds now want Wyly, a man accustomed to burning through $45 million per year, to live on a paltry $10,000 per month.

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Energy Future Holdings Is Fighting to Give Executives at Least $20 Million in Bonuses

Categories: Biz

W.A. Parrish Coal Power Plant
As Brantley Hargrove extensively reported for Unfair Park over the previous two years, Energy Future Holdings, the largest electricity generator in Texas, is a mess. Facing $40 billion in debt, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April and is in the process of selling off one of its most valuable assets, an 80 percent stake in Oncor, the electricity delivery service. EFH was created after TPG Capital, KKR & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. exercised the largest leveraged buyout in history against what was then TXU.

See also: Energy Future Holdings, Texas' Biggest Power Generator, May File for Bankruptcy This Month

As EFH has made its way through the Chapter 11 process in a Delaware federal court, it has faced strong opposition to its request to pay more than $20 million, and potentially as much as $40 million, in bonuses to executives.

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Ebola: Horrible for People, Great for Business

Categories: Biz, Healthcare

Pfc. Crystal Madriz
All dressed up and ready for a night in Uptown.

Dallasites like to shop. We really, really like to shop. So when one of the world's deadliest viruses appears within the confines of our city, we do what comes naturally. We buy things.

Several emergency equipment suppliers say now that sales of hazmat suits were through the roof last week. CNBC reports that Amazon experienced a jump of 131,000 percent for full-body suits, and an 18,000 percent gain for masks, by Wednesday of last week. (The report didn't have actual sales figures.)

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Dallas Pays More for Electricity than Austin or San Antonio. Thanks, Deregulation.

Categories: Biz

Dallas is the light blot up top. The expensive-looking one.
There exist, floating around the Internet and stuffed into the filing cabinets of public-interest watchdogs, an trove of eminently credible reports and white papers explaining in painstaking detail why and how Texas' decade-old experiment with electricity deregulation has failed. But there's an easier way to show how the free market has screwed over the state's electricity-using humans: compare rates in the small number of Texas cities (Austin, San Antonio, San Marcos) that own their electric utility and thus weren't directly affected by deregulation with rates in the large number of cities (Dallas and pretty much everyone else) that were.

That this comparison can be made is a historical fluke. Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen says Texas' municipal and cooperatively owned electric providers tend to be in Central Texas, "where historically they were settled by German utopians and populists. There's a long tradition of community ownership of assets." This, and a push for economic development, drove Austin to establish a public electric utility in the 1890s. San Antonio's came later, after it took over a private provider that went bankrupt after World War II, unable in peacetime to handle the debt incurred it had incurred serving the city's military boom. Dallas and Houston, by contrast, have always had private utilities.

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Urban Orchard Market, Downtown Dallas' Only Grocer Folds After Less Than a Year

Categories: Biz, Development

When Urban Orchard Market opened to moderate fanfare last October, there was hope that maybe, finally, Downtown Dallas was grown up enough to support a grocery store.

It's not. Ten months after opening, the jaunty "Now Open" banner still hanging above the door, the market has quietly closed. A downtown resident who identified himself as Dennis arrived at the storefront off Jackson Street on Thursday morning to find the doors gated and locked. He had planned to pick up a loaf of bread.

"Now," he declared with mild regret, "I have to buy CVS bread."

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Same-Sex Marriage Would Pump at Least $182 Million into the Texas Economy

Categories: Biz

Ernst Vikne
People getting married usually spend money to do so.

From the realm of obvious stuff that is interesting nonetheless comes a study by UCLA's Williams Institute that shows the simplest economic effect marriage equality would have on Texas. The study takes a look at the number of same-sex couples in the state and the effect their being allowed to marry would have on the wedding business. Shockingly, profits for the businesses involved would increase considerably if the prohibition were rolled back.

"Allowing gay couples to marry here would give an economic boost to caterers, florists, event venues, and others who make a living through wedding planning," Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, said in a press release announcing the study.

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