With the legislative session halfway over with no bills to show for it, the Texas House State Affairs Committee is poised to consider legislation to expand gambling and casinos 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:
- Two casinos in the Dallas-Fort Worth area
- Two casinos in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land area
- One casino in the San Antonio-New Braunfels area
- One casino in the Corpus Christi area
- One casino in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area
- One additional casino in a county that is at least 100 miles from any of the previous areas
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, a high hurdle for the controversial proposal.
Additionally, the committee is scheduled to hear testimony during their Wednesday meeting on House Joint Resolution 102 by State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Plano), which would legalize sports betting in Texas.
The Republican Party of Texas platform opposes any expansion of gambling, including legalized casino gambling and sports betting.
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,” said Hardin.
The Texas Freedom Caucus has also come out against the proposals, saying, “This is corporate welfare at its worst by giving special privileges to existing wealthy and woke professional sports and gambling businesses. This isn’t a free market, and not worth the harm to families in Texas that comes from gambling addiction.”
Gov. Greg Abbott, however, has been supportive of the measures, saying in a recent interview, “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.”
Pro-gambling efforts have spent millions of dollars in their attempt to open casinos in the Lone Star State.
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.
Meanwhile, bills to protect women’s sports, increase border security, and prohibit local governments from instituting onerous mask mandates have not been prioritized by the State Affairs committee for a hearing.
The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 22, at 10:30 a.m.