87th LegislatureFederalIssuesLas Vegas Gambling Company Broadcasts Pro-Casino Advertisements Across Texas

Proposed constitutional amendments to establish four commercial casinos in Texas are currently pending in committees.
April 21, 2021
Texas Destination Resort Alliance (TDRA), an arm of casino gambling empire Las Vegas Sands Corp., has commenced a political advertising campaign to persuade Texans to vote in favor of a possible November ballot proposition to legalize commercial casinos, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last week.

“Let Texans decide,” is the mantra of a new website TDRA launched as part of its effort to sell the concept to Texans, who already lean in favor of the idea. The campaign includes millions of dollars worth of radio and television advertising, according to the Review-Journal

“Texans currently spend several billion dollars a year on gaming in neighboring states such as Louisiana, New Mexico, [and] Oklahoma,” the campaign says on its website.

“We want to keep that money in Texas — to fund schools that educate the next generation of leaders. To create new well-paying jobs to sustain Texas families.” 

The advertisements began the same week one of the corporation’s vice presidents, Andy Abboud, testified before the Texas House State Affairs committee in support of Rep. John Kuempel’s (R-Seguin) House Joint Resolution (HJR) 133, which would propose four “destination resorts” that include casinos in the metropolitan areas of Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, and Austin.

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A bill identical to HJR 133, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 49 by Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), is also currently pending in the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee.

Abboud emphasized in his testimony that the gambling expansion would not be exclusively about casinos, but about the accompanying economic development. The specific language of HJR 133 and SJR 49 would in part ask voters to approve four destination resorts in metropolitan areas with populations of more than 2 million people. 

A “destination resort” is defined as a “mixed-use development consisting of a combination of various tourism amenities and facilities, including hotels, villas, restaurants, limited gaming facilities, meeting facilities, attractions, entertainment facilities, shopping centers, and casino gambling facilities.”

The proposed constitutional amendments would establish a Texas Gaming Commission with “broad authority to adopt rules the commission considers necessary or desirable for the strict regulation of casino gaming as authorized by this section.” 

The constitutional amendments would include a required minimum $2 billion investment for metropolitan areas with more than 5 million people and a minimum $1 billion investment for metropolitan areas with populations between two and five million. The population totals would be based on federal estimates as of July 1, 2019.

Casinos would be on the hook for a 25 percent tax on slot machine revenue and a 10 percent tax on table game revenue.

HJR 133 and SJR 49 would also expand casino gambling on federally recognized Indian reservations, grant additional privileges to holders of greyhound racing and horse racing licenses, and allow the legislature to legalize sports wagering.

Objections to legalization of casinos include their possible social consequences, including more gambling addictions and personal financial losses that may lead to individuals becoming more dependent on welfare.

Jonathan Covey, director of policy for Christian advocacy organization Texas Values, said in a call with The Texan earlier this year, “We don’t support legalization of casinos in Texas. It’s not good for families and it’s not good for the economy.”

Amendments to the Texas Constitution require the approval of two-thirds of each house of the state legislature and the approval of a majority of those who vote in a statewide referendum.


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Hayden Sparks

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."