New Legislations for Texas Entertainment Industry in the Pipeline

Contrary to popular belief, gambling – although widespread – is still not legal in all parts of the world. Interestingly, Texas is one of those places where only recently the Texas lawmakers decided to file a legislation which has legalized casino gambling as the final goal. The legislation was backed by Las Vegas Sands, one of the biggest players in the industry.

The legislation was filed in the House by Rep. John Kuempel and Sen. Carol Alvarado in the Senate. Later on, Rep. Toni Rose was also added to the House proposal as a joint author.

The proposal

According to the proposal, Texas needs to create designated casino licenses for their four major destination resorts, that include Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Of course, this will also prompt the need to establish a Texas Gaming Commission which would be in charge of regulating the casinos and all of the games offered. On top of that, it would also separately legalize sports betting. Since even the monopolists in the industry like have implemented sports betting in their offer, it’s understandable why Texas should not miss out on this opportunity as well.

The changes that need to be made

It’s important to note that with such a legislation in place, the current Texas Constitution will need to be adjusted. This is due to the fact that currently, most gaming in Texas is banned, which will certainly need to change. However, achieving something like this is certainly not easy. For this to happen, the legislation will need to secure two-thirds of votes of lawmakers from both chambers.

Since Kuempel is the vice chair of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee and Alvarado chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus, it’s highly likely that these changes will be set in motion sooner rather than later.

Additionally, Las Vegas Sands has already spent millions of dollars on hiring nearly six dozen lobbyists. This certainly creates a big push at the Capitol.

According to Andy Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands senior vice president, they appreciate all the work done by bill’s sponsors. On top of that, they are excited to engage in further discussions that will take place between elected leaders and community stakeholders regarding possibly expanding Texas’ tourism offerings in this way.

The way it’s intended to work

Next, according to Las Vegas Sands, casinos in Texas will get a limited number of licenses for the biggest population centers. These will mostly apply to mixed-use “destination resorts”, which should attract only the top operators. As such, the legislation should prompt a land and development investment that will amount to at least $2 billion in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. Additionally, San Antonio and Austin should expect a similar plan that will amount to around $1 billion,

It’s also important to notice that these destination resort licenses will not be treated as just any ordinary license. Instead, they are regarded as so-called “Class I” licenses. Aside from these, the legislation will also create three “Class II” licenses which will be used for limited casino gaming. These will apply to horse-race tracks in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Finally, there will be two “Class III” licenses that will apply to similar type of limited gambling at greyhound tracks in Corpus Christi and Harlingen.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the full casino legalization will also apply to the state’s three federally recognized Native American tribes. So, it will include El Paso, Eagle Pass and Livingston as well. This is particularly good news seeing as how they’re already able to offer limited gaming.

The economic aspect

Aside from everything mentioned previously, we also need to look at the other side of the coin. According to predictions, the legislation should generate fresh revenue. It’s expected to bring about 25% of tax on slot machines and about 10% on table games. Currently, state lawmakers are faced with almost a $1 billion shortfall in budget. But luckily, the Las Vegas Sands suggests that casinos will be an excellent means to battle this deficit.

Moreover, an alliance of Texas’ major professional teams and betting platforms has also made their own push at the Capitol in February, aside from the one made by the Las Vegas Sands. According to Cara Gustafson, a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance, the Sports Betting Alliance is mostly focused on mobile sports betting and the legislation that follows. But this doesn’t mean that other members and organizations won’t individually support all of these bills. The bottom line is to give Texans the opportunity to decide if they want to have gaming in Texas regulated or not.

The opinions of other parties

Now, even though all of these legislations are being pushed, that doesn’t mean all of them will be viable at the Capitol. Just because some lawmakers would love to see this change taking place, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. While on this topic, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick actually expressed some pessimistic views, stating that the upper chamber is “nowhere close to having the votes for it” and that he has never been in favor of such an expansion regarding gaming.

What Texans think

However, according to polls published by The Texas Tribune and the University of Texas, up to 41% of Texans are in favor of so-called “full casino gambling”, while others are in favor of simply expanding current gaming in any sense. These results simply showcase the interest and willingness of Texans to make decisions regarding things that include them as well. And having such a high number of people interested in voting shouldn’t be ignored either.

Finally, it’s crucial to mention that the Las Vegas Sands is in no shape or form looking to fund this project with Texas’ taxpayer money. On contrary, according to the proposal, no public resources or facilities built with taxpayer money will be included in this process.

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