Beto O’Rourke Pledges Gambling Expansion if Elected Governor of Texas

  • O'Rourke’s announcement came during his first time addressing gambling while campaigning
  • The former representative sees gambling as a way to increase state funding
  • Texas’ Republican-dominated legislature has shown little interest in gaming
  • Both the current Texas governor and lieutenant governor are vehemently anti-gambling
Beto O'Rourke
Beto O’Rourke has said he would support gambling expansion in Texas if elected governor. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Breaking the silence

Texas Democrat and former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke is “inclined to support” gambling expansion if he is elected governor. 

This was the first time that O’Rourke has formally addressed the issue while on the campaign trail. The gubernatorial candidate supports gambling legislation because, as he says, Texans are crossing state lines to frequent casinos or gamble on sports, causing Texas to lose out on billions of dollars that could be used for the betterment of the state.

help us address some of the challenges we have in reducing inflation and property taxes in the state”

“From listening to Texans across the state, it’s one, a very popular proposal, and two, it would also help us address some of the challenges we have in reducing inflation and property taxes in the state,” O’Rourke said. “So I think that warrants a very close look and it’s something I’m inclined to support.”

Liberalizing Texas

O’Rourke, who served in the house from 2013 to 2019, has been concerned with matters of increasing state funding. One of his central promises is to legalize marijuana, which would increase Texas’ endowment tremendously. 

all forms of wagering are illegal by Texas law

The issue which O’Rourke is only now publicly addressing, however, is gambling. All forms of wagering are illegal by Texas law, whether that be poker, bingo, casino games, or sports betting. This makes Dallas one of 17 states to not have passed any sort of pro-gambling legislation (aside from the lottery).

A lack of sports betting contrasts the composition of Texas’ sports atmosphere, which is rife with exciting and enticing prospects. Local teams include, but are not limited to, the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Astros, and Dallas Mavericks, among many others.

The University of Texas also headlines a rich amateur sports pipeline ready to make a splash in events such as March Madness. The Lonestar State would avoid a major issue that many states struggle with, which is attracting bettors.

As exciting as Texas sports betting would be, it faces a great deal of opposition, for while one casino executive referred to Texas as the most important state for gambling expansion, many traditional lawmakers oppose gambling in all forms.

O’Rourke faces a bumpy road

Republican-dominant legislators have paid little mind to gambling measures in the past and have not shown interest in changing. Current Governor Greg Abbott has vehemently defended the state constitution’s ban of gambling, making the path to legalization even harder.

the Texas Republican Party’s platform explicitly opposes gambling expansion

Pro-casino lobbyists would need a two-third vote from both the Senate and House to put the issue on the ballot. The Texas Republican Party’s platform explicitly opposes gambling expansion, however, which partially blocks the path.

“We oppose and call for a veto of any budget that relies on expansion of legalized gambling as a method of finance,” per the party’s platform.

The latest gauge in Texas’ political breakdown is the 2020 presidential election, in which the Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket received 52.8% of votes, compared to 47.8% for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 58.1% of state senators and 55.3% of state representatives are Republican.

Casino companies spoke on the importance of Texas’ gambling future before the last legislative session began.

“Texas is considered the biggest plum still waiting to be out there in the history of hospitality and gaming,” said Las Vegas Sands Corporation senior vice president of government relations Andy Abboud.

The pressure is yet to make an impact, though; in 2021, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican, said the state Senate would not consider expanding gaming.

“It’s not even an issue that’s going to see the light of day this session,” Patrick previously said.