Legislators in the state of Texas, long known as the home of Texas Hold’em, have filed paperwork in the state capitol of Austin that would open the state for casino gaming and sports betting. This move comes directly on the heels of surveys that say the people are wanting such options, but there are concerns that other representatives in the halls of the Austin Statehouse are as vociferous in their support for the efforts.
Casino Monolith Behind Moves to Legalize Casino Gaming in State
State Representative John Kuempel (R-Seguine) was joined by State Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) in presenting the bill that would create casino gaming on a statewide level. Four of the major cities in the state – Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin – would become the major hubs for casino gaming in the state. These “destination resorts” would be allowed to run slots, table games and sports betting. Poker is not mentioned explicitly, but it is figured that it would fall under the “table games” operations.
The legislation has the backing of one of the biggest casino gaming operations in the world. The Las Vegas Sands Corporation, fresh from selling many of its interests in its namesake city, has been lobbying for passage of legislation. Reports from the Texas Tribune by Patrick Svitek state that the LVSC has put “millions” among almost six dozen lobbyists. Andy Abboud, the Senior Vice President of the LVSC, stated to the Tribune that the company is “excited to engage in future discussion with elected leaders” on the casino gaming issue.
The first move, however, would be to literally change the Texas Constitution. The Texas Constitution bans gambling inside the borders and amending the document is not an easy process. It would first take a two-thirds vote of each branch of the Texas Legislature to approve of the change, then it would have to go in front of a voter referendum in the fall.
Texans Want Gambling
The legislation comes on the heels of a new poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler that demonstrates the citizens of the Lone Star State are behind casino gaming. According to the poll and reported by Gromer Jeffers, Jr., 57% of respondents supported casino gaming in Texas, with only 29% stating that they were against it. Only 13% took a “no opinion” stance on the subject, indicating that there was overall support for casinos.
The same applies when the poll examined sports betting in Texas. 43% of Texans would be up for laying bets down on sports, while more oppose (26%) sports betting than casino gaming. There was also a larger contingent of “no opinion” in the sports betting poll (31%). Perhaps not surprising, white evangelicals oppose sports betting by a 44% to 26% clip.
Although there are a few Indian casinos in Texas, for the most part passing casino legislation would stop an exodus of gambling monies out of the state. Oklahoma and Louisiana are immensely popular with Texans looking to get their game on, especially bus tours that journey to those locales loaded with players. Passage of casino gaming legislation would also allow for the state to get a grip on another spectrum of gaming in the state.
For the past couple of years, Texas has become a hotbed of “members only” poker clubs. These clubs operate in a gray area of Texas law because they are not taking anything off the games, but they are charging a “membership fee” for players to be able to play. Some cities in Texas have tried to crack down on these games, but they have not been able to thwart them because they technically are not breaking the laws.
Then there is the final factor – money. The legislation as proposed would look to generate $6 billion in land and development interest for those cities and the state, according to Svitek. Additionally, there is the potential for Texas gamblers to generate as much as $2.5 billion yearly in revenues for establishments in the state per Jeffers.