Texas Gambling Bills May Lack GOP Votes Needed for Passage

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Posted on: March 24, 2023, 07:10h. 

Last updated on: March 24, 2023, 07:10h.

Legislation to pave the way for casinos and sports wagering in Texas currently doesn’t have the required number of votes to pass in the state Senate, says a powerful Lone Star State politician.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, pictured above. He says not enough Senate Republicans support gambling legislation for a bill to move forward. (Image: AP/Pat Sullivan)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R, told Lubbock, Texas radio station KFYO on Thursday, “We don’t have the votes in the Senate as we sit here today.”

For the bills to move forward, 21 state senators out of the 31-member Senate need to vote in favor of the legislation, the Houston Chronicle reported.

That means nine Republicans would have to vote with 12 Democrats for gambling expansion, the report added. At least two-thirds of both the Senate and House members need to approve gaming expansion for it to progress to a required state referendum.

But Patrick puts the required numbers higher in the Senate. He says 15 or 16 Republicans would need to support the legislation in the Senate for it to move to a statewide vote, given how he doesn’t want the appearance of a Democrat majority leading the push for the bill.

I’m not letting the Democrats run the Senate because if you have more Democrats voting for a bill than Republicans … that means they’re running the show,” Patrick told KFYO.

Patrick, as lieutenant governor, sets the agenda for the Senate.

There’s still time for legislators to change their minds. The current legislative session has about three months before it ends.

Among the proposed casino bills before the legislature is one from Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, Senate Joint Resolution No. 17.

It would pave the way for as many as four “destination resorts” in the state, smaller casinos at horse and dog tracks, and casino games and slots at tribal gaming properties.

Among Republicans who are more sympathetic to expanded gambling are Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

The House as a whole is seen as more supportive than the Senate when it comes to approving casinos and sports betting.

House Bill 2843, authored by Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, would allow for casino gambling, the Texas Tribune reported. House Bill 1942, written by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would permit legal sports betting.

Proponents, Opponents Square Off

The House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on Wednesday on expanded gambling.

During the hearing, Leach claimed illegal sports betting is widespread in Texas, but because it’s illegal, it can’t be taxed or regulated.

There are hundreds of our constituents, citizens of all ages, including minors, who right now, especially with March Madness, are placing unsafe, unsecure, illegal, criminal bets very easily,” Leach said, the Tribune reported.

The Sports Betting Alliance estimates that more than $6 billion is wagered already by Texans on sports.

Other proponents at Wednesday’s hearing included officials representing the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Astros, San Antonio Spurs, as well as the PGA Tour.

Under a current proposal, Texas would put a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross wagering revenue.

Eric Schippers, a lobbyist for Penn Entertainment, told legislators the American Gaming Association estimates that illegal sports wagering leads states to lose some $700 million in taxes each year.

Also appearing at this week’s hearing were opponents to gambling expansion. Jonathan Covey, policy director for Texas Values, warned gambling can lead to family violence and other problems. Another opponent, Cindi Castilla of Texas Eagle Forum, stressed that gambling can be addictive and result in families not having enough money for staples like food.

Lobbyists Working Hard

The casino sector, including Las Vegas Sands (LVS), is working hard to see commercial gaming properties in Texas.

There are more than 300 lobbyists now working in the state to represent the gambling sector, the Chronicle reported. LVS, alone, has 69 lobbyists active in Texas.

LVS’ political action committee recently contributed to campaigns of leading Republicans. Phelan received $300K, Patrick $225K, and Abbott $200K. Other legislators also received contributions.

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