Texas Governor Open to Casino Gambling Expansion if He Wins Re-Election

  • Governor Abbott appears open to expanding casino gambling if he wins re-election
  • Abbott’s main opponent in the election race is in favor of expanding gambling
  • Strict gambling laws are in place in Texas and any expansion would face opposition
  • Firms see Texas as a lucrative untapped state and have attempted to lobby favor
Texas flag
Texas Governor Abbott is open to expanding gambling in the state if he manages to win re-election. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Open to ideas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott appears to have opened the door to an expansion of casino gambling in the state. That is, if he wins his re-election battle on November 8. While Abbott emphasized that he does not want widespread gambling across the state, he is open to proposals from the gambling industry about some expansion.

We don’t want slot machines at every corner store”

The governor’s press secretary Renae Eze explained the stance. She said: “We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming.” She did, however, confirm that if Texans could get a new professionally-run entertainment option, the governor would consider it as an option.

A U-turn

Over the years, the majority of attempts to expand gambling in Texas have been unsuccessful. Governor Abbott himself led the charge against any change when he declared back in 2015 that he was “wholeheartedly” in favor of strict gambling laws.

more donations in recent years from gaming interests

The main opponent for Abbott in the race for governor this time around is Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is in favor of gambling expansion. O’Rourke believes that it could prove a major economic driver for the region. It seems likely that his opponent’s stance might be a reason for Abbot’s newfound acceptance of some expansion, as well as receiving more donations in recent years from gaming interests.

Even if the Texas governor supports gambling expansion, they will still need to negotiate strict laws and opposition from certain political circles. The Republican Party of Texas is the main opponent, previously stating that it will oppose any expansion efforts and veto any budget that cites legal gambling as a revenue generator. The next legislative session in Texas will begin in January.

Lobbying efforts

Texas is a very desirable state for casino companies due to its large population. Those in favor of expansion point towards the huge sums of money that nearby states rake in from gambling markets. Legal casinos in the Oklahoma and Louisiana, for instance, benefit greatly from Texans traveling across state lines each year to gamble.

The main forms of legal gambling currently available in Texas include the state lottery, certain types of bingo, and horse and dog racing. There is only one tribal casino up and running in the state.

In 2020, gaming companies applied major pressure on the Texas government to allow resort casinos and sports betting. This involved a lot of lobbying and significant campaign donations. Abbott has received seven-figure donations from the late founder of Las Vegas Sands Sheldon Adelson and Tilman Fertitta, who owns the chain of Golden Nugget casinos.

Other major casino companies that have hired lobbyists in Texas include Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International.