Two pieces of bipartisan legislation have been filed by Rep. John Kuempel (R) and Sen. Carol Alvarado (D) which seek to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in Texas.
The lawmakers are proposing a constitutional amendment to establish the Texas Gaming Commission which would regulate gambling in the state. The move comes off the back of pressure from the gambling empire Las Vegas Sands, which has levied extensive lobbying efforts in support of its ambitious plans for gambling legalization in Texas. Founded by the late GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, the company has strong ties to the Republican Party of Texas and has predicted a gross annual gaming revenue of between $8-10 billion, along with up to 80,000 jobs.
Las Vegas Sands has set its sights on Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth as potential gambling sites. Kuempel and Alvarado’s proposals would create special casino licenses for the four cities, as well as establish a Texas Gaming Commission and legalize sports betting.
However, the bills are expected to face an uphill battle in the historically gambling-averse and conservative state. A two thirds approval from the legislature is necessary for the constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot for Texas voters in the November election.
While the Republican Party of Texas is officially opposed to expanding gambling, prominent members including Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan have indicated a willingness to consider the measure. Others, however, remain resolutely opposed and have cast doubt on the casino bills’ viability.
In an interview last month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) stated that he has “never been in favor of” expanding gaming and dismissed optimism surrounding the measure. “There’s so much infighting and competition amongst all the people in that arena. That’s why it never goes anywhere,” Patrick stated. “And so it’s not even an issue that’s going to see the light of day this session.”