Legislation to legalize gambling for a limited number of destination resorts has been filed in the Texas House.
“Every year, Texas is losing billions to neighboring states that allow gaming. I believe it’s time we allow Texans to vote on bringing that money and the benefits back to Texas,” said Geren.
Two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as a majority of Texas voters, will have to approve the constitutional amendment before Texas can allow casino gambling.
State Sen. Carol Alvarado (D–Houston) has filed Senate Joint Resolution 17 in the Senate, which would also authorize “casino gaming at a limited number of destination resorts” and allow sports wagering. Alvarado has been filing legislation to legalize gambling in Texas since 2009.
Both bills create a Texas Gaming Commission that would decide who gets the coveted casino deals.
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.
Texas Sands PAC also gave Geren’s campaign $10,000 and Alvarado’s campaign $20,000 in 2022.
The Texas Sands PAC was started by Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder in the multibillion-dollar Las Vegas Sands resort casino empire. Although Sands lobbied Texas lawmakers hard during the 2021 session, gambling legislation failed to advance.
Geren’s legislation has already received the endorsement of the Sands corporation through their Texas Destination Resort Alliance, with spokesman Matt Hirsch saying, “The Texas Destination Resort Alliance is proud to support State Representative Geren’s legislation.”
Additional funds are pouring in from others interested in legalized gambling and lawmakers seem to be more receptive to advances from the gambling industry than ever before.
Recent polling also shows that more than half of Texans support casino gambling.
However, 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.
In response to Geren’s filing of HJR 97, one citizen said authorizing gambling “would amount to a full takeover of the state by organized crime.”
Another citizen said, “Gambling is a cesspool of corruption and crime. Fleeces the poor to enrich a few.”
Tim Hardin, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, said, “[Our] historical stance against 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. … The biggest reason to oppose corporate welfare is that it 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.”
Texans concerned about this issue can find contact information for their state lawmakers in Texas Scorecard’s Elected Officials Directory.