The Texas House committee has taken a step forward in expanding gambling in the state, with both major proposals advancing on Monday. Although facing long odds in the Senate, the movement marks more progress than the last legislative session, where the proposals had hearings in committee but never made it to voting. Casino advocates, including Las Vegas Sands, see Texas as their next frontier for the second legislative session in a row.
On Monday afternoon, without discussion, the House State Affairs Committee approved legislation to legalize casinos and online sports betting in Texas, giving voters the power to decide. Voting was unanimous, with Republicans being the only opposition. House Bill 2843 would permit casino gambling, while House Bill 1942 would legalize online sports betting, such as on cellphones. The casino bill also includes the allowance of sports wagering.
However, the proposed bills face a long way to go as the expansion of gambling would require Constitutional changes, which require two-thirds majorities in both chambers. Senate’s lack of support seems unlikely as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has shown reluctance towards expanding gambling in Texas. In recent media appearances, he has voiced his opinion that the Senate lacks the GOP support he wants to see for either proposal.
If passed by voters, the casino bill, backed by Las Vegas Sands, would permit casino gambling in Texas, while the legalized online sports betting would mark a significant shift in the state’s attitude towards gambling altogether. The revised version of the bills, known as a “committee substitute”, has not been publicly released.
The casino bill has received significant backing from Las Vegas Sands, who have spent millions on lobbyists, TV ads, and campaign contributions in Texas since 2020. With the committee’s approval of the gaming proposals, Sands’ spokesperson, Matt Hirsch, says that “Texans have made it clear that they want destination resorts in Texas, and we are now one step closer to ultimately allowing them to decide on this issue.”
The three Republicans who voted against advancing the proposals were Reps. Shelby Slawson of Stephenville, Will Metcalf of Conroe, and John Smithee of Amarillo. The proposals received a hearing late last month, featuring familiar arguments for both sides, with proponents citing economic benefits and opponents warning of societal harm caused by an increase in gambling addiction.
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