A pro-family organization has released an ad condemning efforts to legalize gambling in Texas after the issue gained traction in the Texas House.

The Texas Family Project partnered with former State Rep. Bill Zedler to run a television ad in Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan’s (R–Beaumont) district.

Both Phelan 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.”

According to Transparency USA, the pro-gambling Texas Sands PAC doled out $2 million to Texas candidates during the 2022 election cycle, including $300,000 to Phelan, $225,000 to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, $200,000 to Abbott, and $50,000 to Comptroller Glenn Hegar, all Republicans.

Earlier this month, the House State Affairs Committee approved two pieces of legislation that would expand gambling in Texas.

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.

While some promote gambling as a way to expand Texans’ economic opportunities, TFP Policy Director Austin Griesinger said the activity is detrimental to families.

“Bringing casinos to Texas would benefit lobbyists and Democrats at the expense of Texas families,” said Griesinger. “As lawmakers consider legislation on this issue in the Texas Capitol, Texas Family Project is going directly to the voters and organizing them to oppose this harmful attack on our state’s families and values.”

In the ad, Zedler connected casino gambling with higher crime rates, increased welfare spending, and “more cash for Democrats to turn Texas blue.” Zedler also condemned casinos for promising to boost local economies while instead attracting criminals and leading some to develop gambling addictions.

Zedler promoted TFP’s anti-gambling ad and called for Texas to reject casino gambling.

“I spent years opposing legalizing casinos in our state,” said Zedler. “The numbers are there, and they are clear; casinos bring crime, bankruptcy, addiction, and have disastrous effects on the family. We didn’t need that in Texas 60 years ago, 20 years ago, and we certainly don’t need it now.”

Both HJR 155 and HJR 102 will have to receive majority support from the House and Senate—and Texas voters. Even if one or both resolutions are approved by the Legislature, 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.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said bills to legalize gambling do not have majority Republican support in the Senate and that he needs a Republican consensus to bring the legislation to the Senate floor.

The measures are now before the House Calendars Committee, which will consider whether to bring them to the floor for a vote of the entire body.

Texas’ 88th Legislative Sessions ends May 29.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.