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Efforts to legalize casinos seem unlikely for Texas lawmakers in 2025

AUSTIN – Efforts to legalize casino gambling in Texas appear even less likely to pass in the next session of the House.

In 2023, the Texas House of Representatives fell eight votes short of passing a state constitutional amendment that would allow the construction of eight casino resorts in the state.

When the next legislative session begins in January, it will be the Senate – not the House – that will take up measures related to casinos, said Republican Rep. Jeff Leach of Allen.

“Based on the events of the last session, I think it is common knowledge that there is unlikely to be any meaningful action on this issue in the Texas House of Representatives unless there is real movement and momentum in the Senate next session – meaning the Senate actually taking up and considering the issue,” Leach said in a text message to The Dallas Morning News.

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That could be a major hurdle. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate, said there are not enough votes in the Senate to support casinos.

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“My experience and knowledge tells me we don't have anywhere close to 15 or 16 votes for casinos,” Patrick said in an interview with CBS News Texas on Dec. 1.

In addition, the party platform recently adopted by delegates to the Republican National Convention in Texas takes a negative stance on gambling, calling on Republican lawmakers to reject campaign contributions from lobbyists and organizations with ties to the gambling industry.

“We are against any expansion of gambling, including the legalization of gambling in casinos,” the platform says.

Casino and resort giant Las Vegas Sands is pushing to bring casinos to Texas and has hired dozens of lobbyists and donated millions of dollars to lawmakers through its political action committees in the previous two legislative sessions.

The Texas Constitution prohibits gambling, except on federally recognized tribal lands and in totalizator horse and dog racing. An amendment to the Constitution requires the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate, followed by approval by a majority of voters.

Leach authored a bill and constitutional amendment in 2023 that would have legalized digital sports betting in Texas. Leach's bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 101 to 42, but did not receive a vote in the Senate.

Another bill by Republican Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin would have authorized eight resort-style casinos in Texas, including two in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But Kuempel pulled the bill from the House agenda when it became clear it lacked the necessary support.

A companion bill by Republican Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth proposed a constitutional amendment to allow casinos, but fell eight votes short of the required number of votes.

A spokesman for the Las Vegas Sands PAC said Thursday that they will continue to work to bring casino resorts to Texas.

Proponents of destination casinos say they would bring economic benefits through taxes, jobs and construction projects.

Mark Cuban, the former majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said The Dallas Morning News His goal was to build a new arena in the middle of a resort and casino in partnership with the Sands in 2022.

Miriam Adelson, the majority owner of the Las Vegas Sands, bought Cuban's majority stake for $3.9 billion. The Mavericks reached the NBA Finals on Thursday and will face the Boston Celtics starting June 6.

Patrick Dumont, Adelson’s son-in-law, who was also involved in the purchase, said The Dallas Morning News in February that he believes there is an “opportunity” to develop resorts in Texas in the next few years. Dumont succeeded Cuban as the Mavericks' governor.

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Adelson and her late husband, Sheldon Adelson, have donated $21.5 million to political organizations and candidates in Texas since 2018, including $1.5 million to Governor Greg Abbott's campaign. Sheldon Adelson died in January 2021.

So far, Miriam Adelson has donated $4.1 million to the Texas Sands PAC in 2024.

Abbott has expressed an openness to casino resorts in Texas, as has House Speaker Dade Phelan, who survived a primary but faces two announced candidates for speaker in the 2025 legislative session.

Patrick said a gambling bill would need to have the support of more Republicans than Democrats. Republicans currently hold a 19-12 majority in the Senate.

“We don't pass bills with a handful of Republicans and all of the Democrats,” Patrick told radio host Mark Davis last week. “I don't pass a bill with all of my Democrats and five or six Republicans.”