Texas Casino Legislation Unlikely, According to Industry Analysts

  • State legislators are currently addressing several gambling-related bills
  • Analysts believe there’s virtually no chance Texas will see gambling expansion
  • Bills submitted Tuesday seek to put commercial casinos in four cities to recover COVID-19 losses
  • Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has maintained there is no way casino expansion will be approved
  • Surveys show that Texans overwhelmingly support having more gaming options
American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin
Industry analysts expect that any active attempt to bring gambling expansion to Texas will fail, as lawmakers consider a number of related bills. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Texas lawmakers have a difficult time with gambling

Texas could be known as the Lone Star State for more reasons than one. Eventually, it could be the only state not willing to embrace gambling expansion, with several bills currently being discussed on the topic not receiving a warm welcome by legislators. 

there’s no chance Texas is going to approve gambling expansion anytime soon

There have been attempts over the years to introduce new casinos and gaming options to the state, but none has ever been successful. A renewed attempt, started last year by Las Vegas Sands, isn’t likely to have a different outcome, and a number of political analysts are convinced that there’s no chance Texas is going to approve gambling expansion anytime soon.

Two more bills filed this week

Two proposals submitted by Senator Carol Alvarado and Representative John Kuempel in the House and Senate on Tuesday seek to put commercial casinos in four cities – Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Casino games and sportsbook offerings at these premises would provide a way to recover some of the state revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The price would range from $1bn to $2bn, depending on the location, which would provide a significant amount of tax revenue, employment, and commercial activity for the state. Tuesday’s bills follow two earlier gambling proposals introduced in January of this year.

However, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has already asserted that there is no way casino expansion will be approved. His position is echoed by a number of Republican legislators. 

This resistance at the highest levels of the state government doesn’t bode well for the passage of any gambling proposal, despite overwhelming public support for gambling expansion. Clyde Barrow, who chairs the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, asserts that continued Republican control of the Texas government is going to prevent any progress and doesn’t foresee a change coming. 

The past ten years have shown that lawmakers aren’t willing to listen to public opinion, as public support for gambling expansion has been positive for at least that long.

Texans overwhelmingly support the activity

Texas has seen a number of gambling bills introduced over the years, more following the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel PASPA in 2018. Since then, a small handful of lawmakers have been responding to public sentiment by introducing proposals that have never found support by government leaders. Despite the resistance, they continue to try, willing to respond to the wishes of their constituents.

Texas has a long history of receiving gambling bills dating back decades, but all have failed as lawmakers refuse to budge.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas-Tyler, 57% of the Texas population wants casino gambling and another 43% wants sports gambling. Notably, many of those supporting the introduction of casinos were once dead set against the idea. 52% of those now pushing for casinos are considered evangelicals that previously campaigned to keep casinos out of Texas. 

Big money for the state

It is already known that Texans are gambling, just like residents in all states across the country. However, as opposed to those states that have legalized different forms of gambling, Texas is allowing its potential tax revenue to be sent to neighboring states as gamblers cross state lines. 

“billions of dollars” are being spent on gambling activity outside the state

Senator Alvarado pointed out in an interview with Fox 7 Austin that “billions of dollars” are being spent on gambling activity outside the state, and that introducing casinos would create a “prosperous and economically viable” future for Texas. 

One of the biggest pushes for Texas gambling began last year when Las Vegas Sands formed a team of lobbyists to campaign for broader acceptance of casino gaming in Texas. That was before Sheldon Adelson’s passing this past January, and prior to the company’s decision to sell its Las Vegas properties and focus on Asia. Now, after losing one of its biggest allies, casino gaming in Texas just became a long shot.