Dallas casino talks: Mayor Johnson calls for city council participation

In a recent annual sit-down interview with the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Eric Johnson addressed the sale of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks to Miriam Adelson from Las Vegas Sands. The conversation then veered towards the ongoing efforts to introduce casino gaming to Texas, with Mayor Johnson emphasizing the importance of engaging with the city council and not just the state legislature.

The Adelson and Dumont families have invested millions in advocating for casino gaming in the state, aligning their interests with entrepreneur Mark Cuban’s push for a resort-style casino in North Texas. Cuban envisions transforming Dallas into a “top-five travel destination” in the United States by building a new arena and casino resort.

However, in his address before approximately 350 business leaders at the Dallas Regional Chamber luncheon on December 12, Mayor Johnson revealed that Cuban and his representatives have yet to engage him in discussions about this ambitious plan

“That’s not something that just because the legislature said can happen, just happens,” Johnson said. “I haven’t been a part of those conversations. I don’t feel like they’re really happening. And I think at some point, if he’s serious about really having casino gambling and he’s serious about having it in Dallas, I think that’s a conversation a lot of people are willing to have, but we haven’t had it, just to be honest.”

The lack of dialogue between Cuban and the mayor could raise questions about the feasibility of Cuban’s vision for a casino resort in Dallas. Mayor Johnson emphasized the necessity of involving the city council in any discussions concerning the establishment of a casino within city limits. 

Speaking to the crowd, Mayor Johnson asserted: “The folks I sit around the horseshoe with every day, I can guarantee you are going to have to have a say in where you plop a casino in the City of Dallas. Or whether you get to plop a casino in the City of Dallas.”

The regulatory hurdles for establishing a large-scale building of this type in the city are considerable, involving permits, construction approvals, road closures, and various procedural steps. Mayor Johnson expressed skepticism about the casino proposal advancing, particularly given the conservative nature of the state legislature, which has yet to expand gambling to include table games like poker and blackjack.

“Ultimately, no matter what happens there, let’s say one day it gets legalized to have casino gambling. That’s not something that just because the legislature says can happen, just happens,” Mayor Johnson cautioned.

The mayor drew parallels to a previous case in Frisco, where heated debate surrounds Universal Studios’ plans to build a $550 million theme park. Johnson highlighted the need for a comprehensive discussion about the impact of such developments on the community. Bringing a casino resort to Dallas would change the fabric of the city, he said.

Despite the recent push for expanded gaming, the historically conservative Texas legislature has been resistant to extending casino gaming beyond the current scope, which includes bingo and slot-like machines in casinos run by Native American tribes. While the Texas House showed support for sports betting in a recent vote, efforts to expand casino gaming fell short.

The proposed sale of the Dallas Mavericks to Miriam Adelson and her son-in-law Patrick Dumont for $3.5 billion is awaiting approval from the NBA and is expected to be finalized this week. Adelson’s increasing involvement in Texas politics and business, alongside notable figures like Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban, and former Gov. Rick Perry, is anticipated to bolster the prospects of casino gaming advocates.