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Legalizing Casinos a Longshot for Texas Lawmakers in 2025

Last year, the state House fell a few votes short of advancing a constitutional amendment to allow the construction of eight destination resort casinos. It is unlikely that the state Senate will have enough votes to pass the measure next session.

a worker walking in the new Sands casino in Macau.
This picture taken on Sept. 19, 2012, shows a worker walking in the new Sands casino in Macau. Las Vegas casino boss Sheldon Adelson unveiled plans Sept. 20, 2012, to build a scaled down replica of the Eiffel Tower as part of a new 3 billion USD gambling resort in Macau.
(Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
Efforts to legalize casino gambling in Texas appear to be an even greater long shot in the Legislature next session.

In 2023, the Texas House fell eight votes short of advancing a state constitutional amendment to allow eight destination resort casinos to be built in the state.

When the next legislative session begins in January, it will have to be the Senate — not the House — that initiates action on casinos, said state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Allen.

“Based on what happened last session, I believe it’s generally understood that unless and until there is real movement and momentum in the Senate next session — meaning the Senate actually taking up and considering the issue — there is likely not going to be any meaningful action on it in the Texas House,” Leach said in a text message to The Dallas Morning News.

That could be a major hurdle. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, has said there were not enough votes in the Senate to support casinos.

“My experience and my knowledge is that we aren’t even close to having 15 or 16 votes for casinos,” Patrick said in a Dec. 1 interview with CBS News Texas.

In addition, the party platform recently approved by delegates to the Texas Republican convention takes a dim view of gambling and calls for GOP lawmakers to refuse campaign donations from lobbyists and organizations tied to the gambling industry.

“We oppose any expansion of gambling, including legalized casino gambling,” the platform said.

Casino and resort giant Las Vegas Sands has pushed to bring destination casinos to Texas, hiring scores of lobbyists in two previous legislative sessions and donating millions of dollars to lawmakers through its political action committees.

The Texas Constitution bans gambling except on federally recognized tribal lands and for parimutuel horse and dog racing. Amending the constitution requires support from two-thirds of the House and Senate, followed by approval of a majority of voters.

Leach authored a bill and constitutional amendment in 2023 that would have legalized digital sports betting in Texas. Leach’s legislation passed the House 101-42, but did not receive a vote in the Senate.

A separate bill by GOP Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin would have allowed eight resort-style casinos in Texas, with two in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but he pulled it from the House agenda when it became clear it lacked the necessary support.

Companion legislation by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, proposed a pro-casino constitutional amendment but fell eight votes short.

A spokesman for the Las Vegas Sands PAC said Thursday it will continue pushing to bring destination resort casinos to Texas.

Supporters of destination casinos say they would provide economic benefits through taxes, jobs and construction projects.

Mark Cuban, the former majority shareholder of the Dallas Mavericks, told The Dallas Morning News in 2022 his goal was to build a new arena in the middle of a resort and casino in partnership with the Sands.

Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of the Las Vegas Sands, purchased Cuban’s majority stake for $3.9 billion. On Thursday, the Mavericks advanced to the NBA Finals and will face the Boston Celtics starting June 6.

Patrick Dumont, Adelson’s son-in-law who also involved in the purchase, told The Dallas Morning News in February that he believes there is an “opportunity” to develop destination resorts in Texas over the next few years. Dumont succeeded Cuban as the Mavericks governor.

Adelson and her late husband, Sheldon Adelson, have donated $21.5 million to Texas political organizations and candidates since 2018, including $1.5 million to Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign. Sheldon Adelson died in January 2021.

So far in 2024, Miriam Adelson has donated $4.1 million to the Texas Sands PAC.

Abbott has expressed openness to resort casinos in Texas. So has House Speaker Dade Phelan, who survived a primary challenge but faces two announced candidates for speaker in the 2025 legislative session.

Patrick has said a gambling bill will have to be supported by more Republicans than Democrats. Republicans currently hold a 19-12 majority in the Senate.

“We don’t pass any bills out that have a handful of Republicans and all the Democrats,” Patrick told radio host Mark Davis last week. “I’m not passing a bill with all my Democrats and five or six Republicans.”

©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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