Supporters of gambling expansion have been lately pushing to make casino gambling and sports betting legal in Texas. The beginning of the week saw a Texas House committee allow the two main proposed measures seeking to expand gambling in the state proceed in the state Legislature, even considering the fact they are still facing long odds in the Senate chamber.
Even though the fate of the two bills remains uncertain, the announcement of their further advancement marks more progress than the proposals made over the last legislative session, when they were subject to hearings in committee but were never placed for a vote. Gambling expansion supporters, however, have not given up on Texas which they have been targeting as their next frontier for two consecutive legislative sessions.
The State Affairs Committee of the House gave the green light to the two proposed pieces of legislation that would provide local voters with the opportunity to decide whether to legalize casino gambling and online sports betting in the state without discussion with a 9 to 3 vote. The opposition to the measures came from the Republican members of the committee – Representatives Will Metcalf, Shelby Slawson, and John Smithee.
The gambling expansion bills, however, have still a long way to go. The measures would require changes to the Texas Constitution to be made, which require two-thirds majorities in both House and Senate chambers. Such majorities, however, seem highly unlikely, especially considering the fact that the Senate has hinted that it has little interest in the bills. The presiding officer of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has long been discouraging gambling expansion proponents on the prospects of this happening in the state of Texas. Recently, he noted that the Senate lacks the Republican National Committee (GOP) support on either one of the two legislative proposals.
The Fate of the Two Gambling Expansion Bills Remains under Question
In case House Bill 2843 gets Texas voters’ approval, it would officially allow casino gambling in the state. The other legislative measure – House Bill 1942 – would make online sports betting legal if approved by voters. The casino expansion measure would additionally allow sports betting in the state, too.
At the beginning of the week, the members of the State Affairs Committee voted on a revised version of the bill, also known as a “committee substitute”, without having any discussions on its content. The new version of the piece of legislation was not immediately unveiled to the wider public.
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the casino expansion bill is supported by some of the largest casino operators, such as the Las Vegas Sands, which has spent millions of dollars since 2020 on TV adverts, lobbyists, and political campaign contributions in Texas.
A spokesperson for the lobby efforts of Las Vegas Sands, Matt Hirsch, issued a statement confirming that the efforts to bring casino gambling under the form of so-called destination resorts had made significant progress with the committee’s vote at the beginning of the week. As Mr. Hirsch noted, local residents had made it clear that they are willing to have so-called destination resorts in Texas, and state lawmakers have gotten things one step closer to eventually allowing them to make a final decision on the matter.
Both pieces of legislation received a hearing late in March, with their supporters claiming the addition of the new forms of gambling would bring fresh financial flow, while opponents warned of potential harm by boosting problem gambling rates.