87th LegislatureIssuesTaxes & SpendingDan Patrick Says Gambling Legislation Unlikely to ‘See the Light of Day’

A San Antonio senator has introduced legislation to license 12 casinos in counties that approve casinos via local option elections.
February 10, 2021
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In an appearance on the Chad Hasty Radio Show on Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who wields a great deal of power as the president of the Texas Senate — indicated that proposals to expand gambling in Texas are unlikely to “see the light of day” during the 87th legislative session.

Hasty asked Patrick about reports that he was open to sports betting legislation if it had a sound fiscal basis, which Patrick said was “just absolutely not true.”

Patrick said that sports gaming legislation, according to the industry’s own figures, would likely create about $150 million in tax revenue per year, which would pay for only one half of one day’s worth of the state budget. 

He made a similar point regarding casinos, saying that the tax revenue point is not a winning argument from his perspective.

“Casinos say they’ll generate about $700 million in tax dollars, a lot of money. But it’s equivalent to about three days out of 365 days a year of our total budget,” Patrick said.

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Patrick also contended that legalized gambling is an issue imperiled by “competing interests.”

“That’s why it never goes anywhere, and so it’s not even an issue that’s going to see the light of day this session,” the lieutenant governor said.

On Monday, Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) filed Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 36, which would give Texas voters the opportunity in November to vote for or against an amendment to the Texas Constitution “authorizing the operation of 12 casinos in this state by licensed persons in counties that have approved casino gaming.”

Senate Bill (SB) 616, Gutierrez’s other piece of legislation, would be contingent on the approval of SJR 36.

The proposals would not grant freewheeling legalization of casinos but would give the Texas Lottery Commission wide latitude to determine who is given one of the 12 available casino gaming operator licenses. Anyone who had a casino license would only be allowed to operate one casino.

Local option elections to approve casinos in particular counties would be ordered by county commissioners’ courts at their own option or by a petition signed by a number of registered voters equal to three percent of the individuals who voted in the county during the most recent governor’s race.

SB 616 would also set up a special account for the tax revenue received from casinos, but does not stipulate that the funds must be appropriated for any specific purpose.

The bill would criminalize the playing of casino games by anyone under 18, and would make it a Class B misdemeanor for a casino employee to knowingly allow a minor to patronize the casino. 

The bill would also make it a third-degree felony to illegally manipulate or tamper with a casino game.

The Texas Lottery Commission would be allowed to impose fines of up to $1,000 against casino operators for violations of state law or the commission’s rules. The administrative body would also have the authority to take other disciplinary steps, including revoking a casino license.

Gutierrez’s legislation is among other proposals for the measured expansion of legal gambling in Texas, such as allowing tribal casinos and eight-liner machines.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan. He has coached high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.