One of America’s largest states has long experienced a vacant hole without any legalized casino gaming while other bordering states have prospered for several years.
Several efforts to legalize casino gambling in the state of Texas have fallen short into bitter frustration. But with the Lone Star state in economic peril imposed by COVID-19, a powerful billionaire casino tycoon’s recent interest in the state’s politics seem to draw some hope.
Sheldon Adelson, the chairman, and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has reportedly hired eight influential Austin, TX lobbyists ahead of the upcoming legislative session that is scheduled for January. Adelson and his wife have contributed $4.5 million into Republican campaigns for the state House in the 2020 cycle.
Adelson also has been President Trump’s largest Super PAC contributor covering his last two presidential campaigns. Most recently he donated $75 million into a group called Preserve America.
Gambling in Texas currently operates in a legal grey area. Skating around the law, card rooms have populated the landscape throughout the state, charging either a fee for the seat or membership instead of a traditional rake, which is expressly forbidden under the law.
In May 2019, two Houston-area poker rooms drew attention upon the issue being raided by local law enforcement. At the time of the raids, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, told media representatives “all poker rooms are illegal in Texas.”
As a result, no customers were charged with a crime, but owners of both clubs were charged with money laundering and engaging in organized crime. The charges were then dismissed a few months later. Despite the grey area for poker, Las Vegas-style casinos and traditional casino gambling remain clearly prohibited under the law.
Texas has been one of the most political adverse states as opposed to gambling in the US. Despite states, it shares a border with having casinos, many of which are located near that same border, all attempts at legalizing casino gambling by lawmakers have ultimately failed.
Adding a catalyst is the surging popularity and mobile availability of US sports wagering. Sports betting will be available sometime in 2021 in states that border Texas including Arkansas, New Mexico, and Louisiana.
State Rep. Joe Deshotel, a Democrat from Port Arthur, proposed a constitutional amendment allowing for casino gambling along the coastal area of the state during the last legislative session, however, it was unsuccessful along with six other casino bills.
The issue is trying to cut the money leaving Texas in such large amounts that could be going into the coffers here and helping Texans who need help.
As common with other US states seeking legislation to begin casino wagering, a fund would be set-up to aid catastrophic causes. An opportunity for Texas to offset some of the cost of expensive windstorm insurance for homemakers and businesses, while also supporting catastrophic flood assistance.
As part of the budget, the state is in a $4.6 billion hole with alternative funding needed.
Strange as it may seem, spending $4.5 million in Texas may have nothing to do with Adelson lobbying for casinos whatsoever.
The billionaire’s efforts may be more directed toward killing any attempts the state has in legalizing marijuana as a primary means to raise funding. By hiring lobbyists to revive support for casino wagering assists in several ways including raising hope again for political allies along with bringing potential new jobs to the state, etc.
Also, potential evidence includes Adelson previously spending millions to block similar legislative attempts in Florida and other US states including Nevada and Massachusetts. Adelson has been an advocate against legalizing marijuana since losing a son to a drug overdose in 2005. His wife Miriam is a doctor, and founder of a substance abuse clinic.
For whatever fateful purpose, many are setting hope that a positive direction toward renewing a serious discussion legalizing casino gambling for Texas begins again in 2021.
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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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