- Texas lawmakers unveil bipartisan legislation that would allow for legalized casino gaming and sports betting
- The legislation calls for four “destination resort” casinos to be built in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio
- Legalized sports betting still faces an uphill climb in Texas
On Tuesday, a pair of Texas lawmakers filed legislation that would make casino gambling legal in the Lone Star State. The legislation, which is backed by the Las Vegas Sands, was filed by Rep. John Kuempel (R) and Sen. Carol Alvarado (D). Rep. Toni Rose (D) was subsequently added as another author.
The bill calls for the creation of four casino licenses that would be given to “destination resorts” in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. The law would establish a Texas Gaming Commission that would be tasked with regulating the casinos, tax table games and slot machines, and legalize sports betting.
Bipartisan legislation filed to legalize casino gambling, sports betting in Texas https://t.co/eTl9U5pcgE
— Dallas Morning News (@dallasnews) March 9, 2021
The Texas Constitution would have to be amended for this law to go into effect. The Constitution bans most gambling in Texas. In order to amend the Constitution, two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers of the state Congress would have to vote in favor of the measure. Voters would also have to approve of the idea on the ballot in November.
The Las Vegas Sands has been aggressively lobbying in favor of the expansion of casino gaming and sports betting around the country. The Sands has spent millions of dollars to hire dozens of lobbyists in an effort to promote their case.
Las Vegas Sands senior VP Andy Abboud said, “We appreciate the work of the bill’s sponsors and we are excited to engage in further discussion with elected leaders and community stakeholders on the possibilities for expanding Texas’ tourism offerings through destination resorts.”
The Sands has been arguing in favor of plans similar to those laid out in the proposals. The company has called for the creation of “destination resorts” to be created in the state’s four biggest cities in an attempt to attract only the best casino operators to Texas. The bill calls for a land and development investment of $2 billion for Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth along with $1 billion investments for Austin and San Antonio.
Destination resort licenses would be considered “Class I” licenses under this legislation. “Class II” licenses would then be established for “limited casino gaming” at horse racing tracks in Houston, DFW, and San Antonio. A pair of “Class III” licenses would be available for limited casino gaming at greyhound tracks located in Corpus Christi and Harlingen.
The state’s three recognized Native American tribes with reservations in El Paso, Livingston, and Eagle Pass would be granted full casino operational rights. The three tribes are currently allowed to offer limited gaming options on their respective reservations.
The bill calls for a 10 percent tax on table games along with a 25 percent tax on slots. The lawmakers are focused on selling their colleagues on the potential long-term effects the law could have on economic development, tourism, and jobs in the state.
Sports Betting Alliance
Just last month, the Sports Betting Alliance made its own case for the legalization of sports betting in Texas. The Alliance was formed in January by the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, and Texas Rangers in an attempt to gin up support for the idea. However, the proposals made by the Alliance were centered around mobile sports betting legislation without touching on the possibility of land-based casino gaming.
After the aforementioned bill was filed on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance said, “The Sports Betting Alliance is focused solely on mobile sports betting legislation, however several of our member teams and organizations may support these bills individually and any bills that give Texans the opportunity to decide if they want to regulate gaming in Texas.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not ruled out the idea of legalizing gambling and sports betting, but Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been outspoken against it. Gov. Abbott has said that he is eager to hear what lawmakers have to say about the matter before he makes a decision in either direction. Lt. Gov. Patrick said in an interview in February that he has “never been in favor” of expanding gaming rights.
The bill filed on Tuesday does not call for taxes to be raised in order to fund the development of the resorts. The bill said that proposals “may not include public money or facilities developed or built with public assistance or tax incentives of any kind.”
Over 20 states have voted to legalize sports betting in some capacity since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May of 2018.