Embracing the destination resort-style casinos envisioned in multiple legislative proposals this session, Abbott signaled his support for a “gaming version of the Great Wolf Lodge” in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) has filed House Joint Resolution 97, a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in seven resorts across Texas, while State Sen. Carol Alvarado (D–Houston) has filed Senate Joint Resolution 17, which would also authorize “casino gaming at a limited number of destination resorts” and allow sports wagering.
“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 Star-Telegram.
Two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as a majority of Texas voters, will have to approve one of the proposed constitutional amendments before Texas can allow casino gambling.
Although more than half of Texans support casino gambling according to recent polling, the Republican Party of Texas platform, crafted by grassroots party activists but routinely ignored by GOP lawmakers, opposes any expansion of gambling, including legalized casino gambling.
Tim Hardin, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, explains TFR’s opposition to gambling “has less to do with the ethics of gambling itself and more to do with the history of corporate welfare on the taxpayers’ dime that all too often comes about as a result.”
Hardin said corporate welfare “hurts individual taxpayers more than anyone else.”
Who is paying for these tax breaks and “incentives” given to multinational billion-dollar corporations? You and I are.
Both aforementioned pieces of legislation would create a Texas Gaming Commission to decide who gets the coveted casino deals. Although Abbott is championing “safeguards” against the crime often associated with casinos, he does not mention how Texas will guard against picking winners and losers in corporate welfare schemes.
“We both need and kind of have an obligation to make sure that we will not be setting up a system where people without means are using money that they need to pay their bills, to gamble it away and maybe lose it,” said Abbott. “We need to safeguard against that, as well as make sure no operation is being set up that would lead to any type of crime.”
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 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, all Republicans.
The Texas Sands PAC was started by Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder in the multibillion-dollar Las Vegas Sands resort casino empire. Adelson also personally gave Abbott’s campaign $1,000,000 last year. Sands lobbied Texas lawmakers hard during the 2021 session, but gambling legislation failed to advance.
However, as additional funds are pouring in from others interested in legalized gambling, lawmakers seem to be more receptive to advances from the gambling industry than ever before. Phelan has already signaled support for the expansion of gambling this session.
Patrick is seen as the biggest hurdle since he has consistently opposed legalizing gambling, saying gaming legislation would “never see the light of day.”
But persistence may be paying off for Sands, which reportedly gave Patrick $2.5 million over the past three years. Patrick is now noncommittal, telling KXAN at the end of December, “I haven’t had anyone mention it to me, that they are interested in doing anything” to advance gambling in Texas.
Texans concerned about this issue can find contact information for their state lawmakers in Texas Scorecard’s Elected Officials Directory.