A group leading the effort to expand casinos to Texas is sending mail supporting the campaign efforts of some Texas Republicans through the use of a political action committee.
None of their campaign material, however, mentions gambling.
The Las Vegas Sands corporation runs a multibillion-dollar casino empire. In recent years, they have turned their focus to the Lone Star State—starting the Texas Sands PAC. The PAC doled out $2 million to Texas candidates during the 2022 election cycle, including $300,000 to House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont), $225,000 to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, $200,000 to Gov. Greg Abbott, and $50,000 to Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
The Republican Party of Texas, meanwhile, opposes any expansion of gambling, including legalized casino gambling.
Despite Las Vegas Sands’ efforts, legislation to expand casino gambling failed to pass this last session. Now, with the campaign season beginning, the group appears to have taken a different approach.
While the Texas Sands PAC has remained relatively dormant, according to recently released campaign finance records, Las Vegas Sands donated $250,000 to a PAC called Texans for Opportunity & Prosperity—based in Beverly, Massachusetts. Over the past couple of months, that PAC spent just over $300,000 in mail and digital advertising that supports the following incumbent Republican House members:
- Jacey Jetton (Richmond)
- Ernest Bailes (Shepherd)
- Jeff Leach (Plano)
- Brooks Landgraf (Odessa)
- Angelia Orr (Itasca)
- Cody Harris (Palestine)
- Sam Harless (Spring)
- Janie Lopez (San Benito)
- Brad Buckley (Killeen)
- Ken King (Canadian)
- Glenn Rogers (Graford)
- Frederick Frazier (McKinney)
- Charlie Geren (Fort Worth)
- Justin Holland (Heath)
- Steve Allison (San Antonio)
Other donations to the PAC include $25,000 each from Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Republican State Leadership Committee.
Mailers sent to voters in the members’ districts highlight issues like border security, taxes, and election integrity.
Missing on these mailers, however, are any mentions of casino expansion in Texas, which all of these members voted for—except for Glenn Rogers. He did, however, support legalizing online sports gambling.
Such obfuscation is not unheard of in political campaigns.
“It’s not unusual to see a ‘lightning rod’ organization route money through an innocuous-sounding PAC to avoid drawing attention to the transaction,” said Tracy Marshall, the executive director of Transparency USA, a nonpartisan organization that provides information on political spending.
With the next set of financial reports due in January, it remains to be seen how active the casino lobby will continue to be as they gear up for the 2025 legislative session.