Texas House lawmakers have approved legislation that would allow online sports gambling in Texas, but they stopped short of approving casino gambling.
House Joint Resolution 155 by State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) was a constitutional amendment proposal that, if also approved by Texas voters, would allow casino gambling in eight “destination resorts” across Texas.
Constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval of the 150-member body. When the proposal had its initial approval earlier this week, it only garnered 92 votes in favor.
In order for the measure to pass, it required a second vote of 100 affirmative votes or more by midnight Friday. When that proved impossible, Geren postponed the proposal until 2027—effectively killing it.
“I do know when it’s time to fold ’em,” said Geren.
When the casino proposition was debated earlier this week, an amendment offered by State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) attempted to prohibit awarding a license to operate a gaming establishment to any person or entity that also operates a gaming establishment in China, North Korea, Iran, or Russia.
This is significant because the pro-gambling Texas Sands PAC created by Dr. Miriam Adelson—the majority shareholder in the multibillion-dollar Las Vegas Sands resort casino empire—would be unable to receive a gaming license in Texas because Las Vegas Sands operates casinos in Macau, China.
Geren offered an amendment to the amendment containing the prohibition to mainland China, thereby removing Macau and allowing Sands to operate in Texas. The amendment was approved 104-35.
“We literally in this bill are going to set aside money to pay for the human problems that are going to be caused by this … literally set aside money in here to make sure we take care of the addiction problems,” said State Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls).
State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano) called HJR 155 “a bad deal,” stating, “Texas is better than this.”
While the casino proposition fell short, another gambling proposal by State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Plano) did receive narrow approval.
House Joint Resolution 102 would legalize sports betting in Texas. Critics have argued that online gambling can be even more harmful than casinos, as people have the ability to lose significant amounts of money quickly from the comfort of their home. The House approved the measure by a vote of 101-42.
HJR 102 must receive two-thirds support from the Senate as well—and then majority support from Texas voters. Gambling could be a hard sell to voters, as a recent poll showed that 84 percent of Texas Republican primary voters believe it can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol.
Both House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) and Gov. Greg Abbott have pushed for legalized gambling, with Phelan saying he wants to see “destination-style casinos that are high quality and that create jobs and that improve the lifestyle of those communities.”
While the sports gambling proposal now moves to the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said bills to legalize gambling do not have majority Republican support in the Senate and that he needs a consensus to bring the legislation to the Senate floor.