The governor’s press secretary, Renae Eze, provided a statement to the newspaper that included plenty of caveats.
“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming,” Eze said. “But, if there is a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Gov. Abbott would take a look at it.”
Abbott has been an opponent of gambling expansion for years, reportedly indicating in 2015 that he “wholeheartedly” backed the state’s restrictions on gambling. Lawmakers in both parties, particularly Republicans, have been ambivalent on the issue. For his part, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not regard it as a serious possibility during last year’s regular legislative session.
The Republican Party of Texas is staunchly opposed to casinos, as stated in the platform passed by delegates at its convention in June.
Dr. Miriam Adelson, who is the majority shareholder of casino gambling corporation Las Vegas Sands, cut a check for $1 million last month to Abbott’s reelection bid, according to the most recent campaign finance documents.
A political action committee funded by Adelson, Texas Sands, has also contributed a combined $1.5 million to Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature on both sides of the aisle.
During its regular session, the 87th Legislature did not advance any proposals to legalize commercial casinos, which are banned under the Texas Constitution. However, lawmakers discussed the notion and took testimony from lobbyists in the casino gambling and sports betting industries.
Las Vegas Sands is hoping the Legislature will place a statewide referendum on the ballot to license a limited number of commercial casinos, which supporters say will be part of “destination resorts.” Casino legalization requires the approval of voters due to the constitutional prohibition.
Federally recognized Native American tribes operate a handful of entertainment centers in Texas that resemble casinos, but even those have often been the target of litigation by the state government.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."