According to a survey by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, there is significant public support for legalizing casinos in Texas. Of those polled, 75% would support a new casino gambling bill that would permit full-service casinos in major cities, as well as eventually legalize sports betting.
41% strongly support the proposal
The survey, whose results were published on Thursday, covered a wide range of people, including those from different political parties, genders, religions, and races. Of the 1,200 survey respondents, 41% strongly support the proposal, while 13% are strongly against it.
Texas has historically been a conservative state when it comes to gambling expansion, but it appears that public opinion on the topic is now changing. Conservative Christians have often been the most outspoken critics of expansion, but the survey found that 61% of the evangelical Protestants and 69% of born-again Christians surveyed would support the expansion bill.
Gambling expansion legislation
The focus of the survey is Senate Joint Resolution 17, introduced in November by Senator Carol Alvarado. The initial goal of the bill would be to develop destination casinos in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Sports betting and others forms of gambling would follow down the line if they get sufficient support. Existing racinos in these cities would also be able to offer limited forms of casino gambling at greyhound racetracks.
House and Senate need to approve the bill before it goes to a public vote
The concern for any gambling expansion bill in Texas is that it will stall in the legislature. Both the state House and Senate need to approve the bill before it goes to a public vote. Some notable lawmakers who were previously against gambling expansion in the state have seemingly backtracked somewhat.
Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan both expressed their willingness to consider allowing commercial casinos in Texas. One of the big uncertainties is the position of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who likely would need to lend support to the bill for it to pass a Senate vote. As the bill would amend the constitution, it needs two-thirds support in both legislatures.
Casino companies lobbying efforts
Casino companies have been lobbying hard to capture support for expansion. Las Vegas Sands has been leading the charge, contributing at least $3m in 2022 to many lawmakers and legislative groups. It has at least 63 lobbyists on the ground in the state, more than any other entity. According to the Texas Ethics Commission, Las Vegas Sands and affiliates plan to pay lobbyists at least $6m in 2023.
Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban has publicly backed the expansion of casino gambling in Texas, partnering with Las Vegas Sands in the process. He hopes to build a new arena for the Mavericks that would be part of a casino resort.