A new bill has been filed to expand casino gambling in Texas and legalize sports betting. Republican Rep. Charlie Geren filed the proposal on Friday, supported by The Destination Resort Alliance, which is backed by casino and resort company Las Vegas Sands.
Should this resolution pass, it would let voters choose whether to allow casino gaming at a limited number of destination resorts, authorize sports wagering and create the Texas Gaming Commission. Enabling legislation, which lays out how Geren’s proposal would be carried out, is expected to be filed by Rep. John Kuempel this session.
“I just think the important thing is that we let voters in all of Texas decide if they want this or don’t want it. And if they don’t want it, we’ll quit working with it, and if they do want it, we’ll go forward,” Geren said, as reported by Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Currently, there is limited gambling in Texas, including a state lottery, horse and dog racing, some gaming rooms and a few tribal casinos. However, Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan have left the door open for expanded casino gambling.
Senator Carol Alvarado has also filed a bill to expand casino gambling through legislation that would also let voters decide on whether or not to legalize resort-style casino gambling and sports betting, but with different parameters from Geren’s proposal.
Geren’s proposal says the state could have seven “destination resort” type casinos, which offer other attractions such as hotels, restaurants, meeting spaces, entertainment venues and shopping centers. This includes two in Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as two in the Houston area.
Other casinos would be permitted in the San Antonio area, Corpus Christi and the McAllen area. “It’s going to provide a lot of construction jobs, which are obviously temporary jobs, but then ongoing a large number of permanent jobs in the casinos, in the restaurants, the showrooms, in the shopping areas,” Geren said, as reported by the cited source.
An “initial qualified applicant” in the DFW area would need to be a racetrack association that has had a license to conduct racing anywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area on January 1, 2022. It must also commit to investing in the new development of the destination resort an amount equal to at least $2 billion.
Gov. Greg Abbott.
Grand Prairie is home to Lone Star Park, a horse track operated by a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation, a tribe that owns WinStar World Casino and Resort in Oklahoma. According to Geren, the tribe is allegedly on board with the legislation, and he stated he worked with “a very diverse group” of casino operators and tribes to craft the proposal.
“The Chickasaw Nation has long been active in the Texas economy and committed to providing high-paying, quality jobs for Texans. Given our commitment to Texas, we look forward to engaging with their Legislature about the economic benefits and tens of thousands of jobs destination resorts will bring to the Lone Star State,” the tribe said in a statement.
As for sports wagering legalization, the Texas Sports Betting Alliance has long pushed to bring the activity to the state. Legislation supported by the group is expected to be filed in February, according to Spokesperson Cara Gustafson.
Meanwhile, the Destination Resort Alliance spent millions in 2021 in a push to bring limited casino gambling to the state, but legislation and a separate push for sports betting ultimately fell flat. Big dollar investments have continued in the time since, as the group supported by Las Vegas Sands again advocates for expanded casino gambling in Texas.
Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for the alliance, said in a statement that Texans spend billions of dollars each year in neighboring states that have casino gaming, money that should benefit the people of Texas. “These destination resorts will bring massive economic benefits to the state, including tens of thousands of jobs,” he stated.
Abbot and Phelan have signaled openness to the types of casinos being proposed by the alliance. Abbott said he was open to Texas having “professional entertainment” options for gambling.
“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming,” he said. “But if there is a way to create a professional entertainment option for Texans I’d take a look at it in the coming legislative sessions.”