Las Vegas Sands leading move to expand gambling in Texas; in talks to build resort-style casino

Casino giant Las Vegas Sands is in talks to bring a destination resort-style casino to Texas if approved by the state, a representative for the company informed legislators on Wednesday. The casino and resort firm is spearheading the effort to expand gambling in Texas to include commercial casinos that provide resortstyle amenities such as hotels, restaurants, meeting spaces and entertainment venues.

Members of the House’s State Affairs Committee on Wednesday heard several gambling bills, including a proposal by Rep. Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican, that would permit a limited number of destination resort casinos in Texas. 

Geren’s proposal says the state could have up to seven “destination resort” type casinos. 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 McAllen area. The bill also opens a bidding process for an eighth casino at a to-be-determined location

Under the bill, casino licenses would be administered using existing horse and dog racing licenses. Racetrack license holders, as of January 1, 2022, could apply or designate someone else to apply. This is how Sands and other companies that do not hold a racing license would likely get into the casino game, reports Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Currently, there are 10 racetracks in Texas, five of which have races scheduled for 2023, according to the Texas Racing Commission. Racetrack license holders could not have more than two casino licenses.

Rep. Charlie Geren

Representatives from Sands were among those who addressed lawmakers during the public hearing on House Joint Resolution 155. When asked what a casino may be worth, J.T. Foley, Sands Vice President of government relations, said the company is in active negotiations for a license and couldn’t comment. The executive did not specify who the company was negotiating with.

The Texas Sands PAC, the company’s political arm, also declined to comment through spokesperson Matt Hirsch, noted the cited source. Sands has dozens of registered lobbyists this legislative session, and its political action committee donated more than $2 million to Democratic and Republican candidates this past election cycle. It has also pushed for expanded gambling through the Texas Destination Resort Alliance.

As of January, there are two entities with a majority share of three or more tracks in the state, according to racing commission records: casino and entertainment company Penn Entertainment, Inc. and the LaMantia family of L&F distributors.

Lawmakers on Wednesday also heard testimony on a bill that complements Geren’s proposed constitutional amendment. The bill by Rep. John Kuempel, a Seguin Republican, outlines the regulatory framework for gaming in Texas.

Lawmakers additionally heard public testimony on bills that would legalize online sports betting in Texas if approved by voters.

Rep. Jeff Leach

House Bill 1942 author Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican, told his colleagues that betting is being done illegally and that his legislation would promote transparency and provide protections and accountability in the industry. Leach’s bill seeks to legalize online sports betting through a constitutional amendment

The legislation is supported by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, which is comprised of Texas professional sports franchises, sports leagues, race tracks, and sports betting platforms. “Wagering on sports is here, and it’s here to stay,” Leach said, as reported by Fort Worth Star-Telegram.