If you live in the Dallas area, you do your gambling in Oklahoma. If you’re from Houston, you go to Louisiana. Out west they have Indian casinos in Eagle Pass and El Paso. The point is that Texans have access to gambling pretty much across the state. The problem is that when they cross state lines to gamble, that money is lost.

Texas currently has some of the most restrictive gambling laws in the country. Since 1992 Texas has had a statewide lottery, including scratch off tickets and Mega Millions and Powerball games. Texas also allows raffles and bingo games. The only wagering allowed by law is parimutuel wagering, a type of pool betting used in horse and dog racing. 

There are three federally recognized Indian tribes in Texas, and each of them operate a casino on tribal lands within the borders of Texas. They are located in Eagle Pass, El Paso, and Livingston, Texas. They have all been subject to various lawsuits by the state of Texas at one time or another trying to shut them down. 

Legalizing casino gaming in Texas is the next big revenue producer for the state, and Danny Harrison will be one leading the change as the next Governor. Polls show that Texans overwhelmingly support expanded casino gaming in their state. 

February 2021 UT/TT Poll

In February of 2021 the University of Texas and Texas Tribune teamed up to survey 1,200 Texans on their opinions on several subjects, including casino gaming. Nearly 60% of those polled support some sort of expansion of casino gaming in Texas. 

In the internet poll, respondents were asked their thoughts on casino gaming in Texas and given a number of different responses. 41% supported fully legalized casino gaming. 12% surveyed wanted to expand gaming where it’s already allowed, and 6% said they would expand it on Indian land only. (Those two answers are basically the same thing, since it’s only allowed on Indian land currently.)

Only 8% of those polled were in favor of banning casino gaming in the state of Texas.

Las Vegas Sands

The Las Vegas Sands Corporation made a push to get casino gaming on the ballot during the last legislative session in early 2021. Sands founder and prominent Republican financier Sheldon Adelson hired an army of lobbyists to influence the powers-that-be in Austin. Unfortunately, he passed away in January, before seeing his efforts materialize.  

According to state records, Sands spent more than $10 million dollars on lobbying and advertising in Texas in support of casino gaming. Their proposal was to bring “destination resorts” to the four largest metropolitan areas in the state.

Several outside factors were working against them, however. The Sands effort to legalize casino gaming came at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic, and significant legislative effort was focused on that. There was also the deep freeze that struck Texas in February during Winter Storm Uri, and the ensuing uproar over ERCOT and their handling of the situation. 

Moving Forward

Ultimately, legalizing casino gaming in Texas will come down to a vote by the citizens, but getting the issue onto the ballot is the real fight. Once it’s on the ballot, it will pass overwhelmingly. There is support for the movement in the Texas House of Representatives. Speaker Dade Phelan (R), who represents a district bordering Louisiana, has said “All of my constituents gamble. It’s not a big deal to me.” 

Getting the Senate on board may be a little tougher. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been vocal in his opposition to casino gaming. In a February 9th radio interview, Patrick said that he had “never been in favor” of expanding casino gaming in the state and that the Senate was “nowhere near” having the votes required to get the issue on the ballot.

Governor Abbott has been less than enthusiastic on the issue, saying in 2015 that he “wholeheartedly” supported the gaming restrictions that are in place.

As Governor, we’ll have a profound influence on the Lieutenant Governor, whose role as President of the Senate is vital to getting casino gaming on the ballot.

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