Despite the odds being against them in the Texas Senate, legislation to expand gambling in Texas is rolling through the Texas House.
Gambling proposals presented by House lawmakers include two facets: casino gambling and online sports betting. This week, the House State Affairs Committee pushed through legislation to do both.
House Joint Resolution 155 by State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) is a constitutional amendment proposal that, if approved by Texas voters, would allow casino gambling in eight “destination resorts” across Texas.
House Joint Resolution 102 by State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Plano), meanwhile, would legalize sports betting.
Both would be subject to a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, as well as approval by a majority of Texas voters.
But while supporters of the legislation claim gambling would bring in additional revenue to Texas, opponents have highlighted the financial and social cost of such ventures.
At a recent committee hearing, Cindy Asmussen, the public policy advisor for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, highlighted these potential downsides.
“If we use the same rationale to raise tax revenue, we could justify any vice as a means for creating jobs and raising funds for education,” said Asmussen. “Money cannot be the driving force behind the legalization of vices for our state. Once Texas opens the door for Class 3 gaming, the lobbying power and influence will be monumental.”
“We pay even if we don’t play. Government-sanctioned gambling incurs major socio-economic costs that end up being footed by all the taxpayers. All of us will end up paying,” she added.
The Republican Party of Texas platform opposes any expansion of gambling, including legalized casino gambling and sports betting. That hasn’t stopped House Speaker Dade Phelan and Gov. Greg Abbott from signaling their support for it, however.
“If it can be built in a way that is kind of like a professional operation that provides a form of entertainment for people, that’s something I can be open to,” Abbott told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in February.
Despite its progress in the House, the bills are almost certainly dead on arrival in the Texas Senate.
During a recent appearance on The Mark Davis Show, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the bill does not have support among Senate Republicans.
“Unless I have 15 to 16 Republicans, meaning it’s a Republican-driven bill because we’re a Republican-driven state, I’m not bringing a bill to the floor,” said Patrick. “I need Republican consensus; otherwise, it’s a Democrat bill.”
The proposals were approved by a 9-3 vote in the House State Affairs committee, with State Reps. Will Metcalf (R–Conroe), Shelby Slawson (R–Stephenville), and John Smithee (R–Amarillo) as the lone votes against them.
The measures will now be sent to the House Calendars Committee, which will consider whether to bring them to the floor for a vote of the entire body. The Texas Legislature is now 85 days into its 140-day regular session, and the Texas House has not yet voted on a legislative priority of Gov. Greg Abbott or the Republican Party of Texas.
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