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It is quite astonishing that The Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who only last week made a bold announcement they intend to “leave Las Vegas” by selling their two premier casino resort properties in a $6.25 billion dollar deal, have now set their sights on Texas.
Las Vegas Sands has reorganized their business plan, which strongly includes a leadership role involving Texas, which includes state-of-the-art sports wagering and gambling facilities that include destination vacations. Their confidence and vision have them backing governmental legislation at the top level in the Lone Star state.
On Tuesday, two Texas lawmakers filed legislation that would potentially make casino gambling legal in the state. The legislative draft, backed by the Las Vegas Sands, was filed by Rep. John Kuempel (R) and Sen. Carol Alvarado (D). Rep. Toni Rose (D) was subsequently added as another author.
The gaming bill calls for the creation of four casino licenses that would be given to “destination resorts” in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. The law would establish a Texas Gaming Commission tasked with regulating the casinos, tax table games, and slot machines, and also be responsible for legalizing sports wagering.
For the law to be instituted the Texas Constitution would have to be amended. Currently, the Texas Constitution bans most forms of gambling in Texas. To change or amend it a two-thirds majority would be necessary in both chambers of the state Congress. Also, Texas voters would need to approve any gaming measure on a ballot this November.
Unlike some US states that have experienced a smoother ride toward legislative acceptance, there already has been a history of dissent for accepting casino gaming and sports wagering in Texas.
Many proposals promoting sports wagering have filtered into the Texas wagering discussion early in 2021. None have advanced past the introductory stage, either indicating a lack of interest or the necessary collective political power to obtain any strength.
Along with New York, California, and Florida, Texas remains one of the largest remaining US states to not get on board as yet for legalized online sports wagering. The key difference among the group is their very conservative stance toward any form of gambling.
An easy example of this frustration and contention among state policymakers came this week in Wyoming, On the doorstep of legalizing online sports wagering, the Wyoming House could not gain necessary votes and turned down their most recent bill. The next day they reconsidered with new amendments and passed the bill on the way to the Senate for the next phase.
There may be optimism for advancing here as the Las Vegas Sands has drawn up a plan specifically setting locations for their resorts within this new version of the draft. It would allow for all casino gambling including sports wagering. Similar to a “Las Vegas resort”, it is pointed toward a comprehensive tourism and hospitality industry concept vs. strictly a gambling market.
Under the Las Vegas Sands vision for this legislation, destination resort licenses would be considered “Class I” licenses. “Class II” licenses would then be established for “limited casino gaming” at horse racing tracks in Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and San Antonio. A pair of “Class III” licenses would be available for limited casino gaming at greyhound tracks located in Corpus Christi and Harlingen, Texas.
The state’s three recognized Native American tribes with reservations in El Paso, Livingston, and Eagle Pass would be granted full casino operational rights. The three tribes are currently allowed to offer limited gaming options on their respective reservations.
The bill calls for a 10% tax on table games along with a 25% tax on slots. Texas lawmakers are focused on selling the group on the potential long-term effects the law could have on economic development, tourism, and jobs in the state.
Andy Abboud, Las Vegas Sands Senior Vice President was enthusiastic about the progress made by Texas legislators and said:
We appreciate the work of the bill’s sponsors (Rep. John Kuempel, Rep. Toni Rose, and Sen. Carol Alvarado) and we are excited to engage in further discussion with elected leaders and community stakeholders on the possibilities for expanding Texas’ tourism offerings through destinations resorts.
The largest challenge for Texas will be uniting many different opinions and organizing many different versions of past bills to make up for a lost time.
For 2021 there is ample time to make advances before the Texas legislature adjourns on May 31. Additional proposals would have to be officially filed and put on the floor for discussion.
Regarding the pulse of the Texas population, a recent poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler reveals that 57% of Texans support allowing casino gambling. Only 29% of respondents are opposed, with 13% saying it doesn’t matter.
Texans support sports betting, a trend that’s occurring across the nation, by a 43% to 26% margin, with 31% responding that it doesn’t matter to them. However, white evangelicals echoing some of the legislator’s opinions were less supportive about sports wagering for Texas. They oppose it by a 44% to 26% margin.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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