Texas Lawmakers Consider Legalizing Casinos Following Lobbying Blitz


Topline

Two pieces of bipartisan legislation have been filed that would make Texas by far the largest state with either casinos or legalized sports betting, but the bills could face an uphill battle to becoming law in the historically gambling-averse and conservative state while the U.S. as a whole trends toward easing longstanding restrictions on gambling.

Key Facts

The legislation, filed by Republican state Rep. John Kuempel and Democratic state Sen. Carol Alvarado, proposes a constitutional amendment to create the Texas Gaming Commission to regulate gambling in the state.

That would pave the way for four casinos to be built in the state—one in Austin, one in Houston, one in San Antonio and another in the Dallas area.

Those are the areas that have been targeted for casinos by Las Vegas Sands, the Sheldon Adelson-founded company that has put on a lobbying blitz for gambling legalization in Texas.

To move toward legalization, the bills would need the approval of two-thirds of the legislature, at which point a constitutional amendment would be put on a ballot for Texas voters to either approve or reject.

The proposed amendment would also clear the way for gambling on Native American territory in Texas, a right that’s been given to tribes in many other states.

Chief Critic

Officially, the Republican Party of Texas is opposed to expanding gambling since the party platform calls for the opposition to “the expansion of legalized gambling.” But some prominent Republicans, like Gov. Greg Abbott (R) have signaled they might be open to a legalization effort.

Big Number

$8 billion-$10 billion. That’s how much in gross annual gaming Las Vegas Sands senior vice president Andy Abboud said Texas casinos would produce if legalized. Abboud estimated casino legalization would also add 60,000-80,000 jobs in the state.

Key Background

Before 2018, Nevada had long been the only state with legal sports betting, but the legalization effort has taken off across the country since then. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting since 2018, with successful legalization efforts taking place in some of the most liberal and conservative states alike. Five more states have legalized sports betting but have not yet allowed residents to start betting yet, pending hurdles like regulatory oversight. Those states are: North Carolina, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, South Dakota and Louisiana.

Further Reading

Bipartisan legislation filed to legalize casino gambling, sports betting in Texas (The Dallas Morning News)

The Improbable Life Of Sheldon Adelson, Republican Kingmaker And Casino Billionaire (Forbes)

After Sheldon Adelson’s Death, Las Vegas Sands Looks To Double Down On Asia, Expand To New York And Texas (Forbes)

Are casinos coming to Texas? Gambling industry sees state as huge untapped market (Austin American-Statesman)

United States of sports betting: An updated map of where every state stands (ESPN)



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