Push to bring casinos to Texas appears headed for defeat despite high-profile campaign

Patrick Svitek
Texas Tribune
In this Feb. 27, 2013 file photo, dealer Han Kim, center, gathers up chips after a hand of Texas Hold 'em at a poker room in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

A high-profile push by the gaming empire Las Vegas Sands to bring casinos to Texas appears doomed at the state Capitol as this year's legislative session begins to wind down.

Monday was the deadline for House committees to advance that chamber’s bills and joint resolutions, and the deadline passed without the State Affairs Committee voting out the Las Vegas Sands-backed House Joint Resolution 133. The legislation, which got a hearing last month, would let Texas voters decide whether to build “destination resorts” with casinos in the state’s four biggest metropolitan areas.

Identical legislation in the Senate has not even received a committee hearing, though its chances there were always slimmer given the resistance of the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“We have said from the beginning that we’re committed to Texas for the long haul,” Andy Abboud, Las Vegas Sands’ senior vice president of government relations, said in a statement given to The Texas Tribune on Monday evening. “We have made great strides this session and have enjoyed meeting with lawmakers about our vision for destination resorts and answering all the questions they have.”

Abboud added that the feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive,” promising the company “will continue to build on this progress over the final days of the legislation session, and over the coming months, we will continue to build community support across the state to ultimately turn this vision into a reality.”

The end of the session is May 31, and bill-killing deadlines are in full swing.

The casino bills are meeting a similar fate to that of legislation to specifically legalize sports betting. The House bill to legalize sports betting got a hearing before the State Affairs Committee last month and was not voted out before the Monday deadline. The Senate bill to legalize sports betting, meanwhile, has not gotten a committee hearing.

The sports betting legislation is being backed by an alliance of pro Texas sports teams, racetracks and betting platforms.

Las Vegas Sands has gone all out this session to make its intentions known at the Capitol and across the state. It built one of the largest lobbyist stables in Austin, spending millions of dollars on contracts, and launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to build public pressure.

While Patrick has thrown cold water on the casino legislation, the two other top Republican leaders in the state — Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan — have been more open-minded.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/11/texas-casinos-legislature-defeat/.

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