88th LegislatureIssuesSpeaker Dade Phelan Open to ‘High-quality’ Casinos That Contribute to Economic Development

Dr. Miriam Adelson and her company casino gambling titan Las Vegas Sands Corp. contributed millions of dollars to Texas candidates last year.
January 12, 2023
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) indicated in a news conference at the Capitol that he would be open to legalizing casinos in Texas, repeating similar sentiments he has expressed in the past.

“I want to see destination-style casinos that are high-quality and that create jobs, and that improve the lifestyles of those communities,” Phelan reportedly said Thursday. The speaker also contended the “average voter” would approve, and that he personally lives near casinos due to his Beaumont-area district’s proximity to Louisiana.

Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) already filed legislation in November to create a gaming commission in Texas, structure a sports wagering program, and permit the licensing of up to four commercial casinos and five more locations with “limited casino gaming.”

Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., dumped millions of dollars into Texas elections in 2022 personally and through Texas Sands, her company’s political action committee in Austin. She even cut a $1 million check to Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign.

Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also received donations of $150,000 apiece from Texas Sands.

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Abbott, who has been an opponent of loosening Texas gambling laws, said last year that he would be amenable to the possibility of “professional” gambling options.

Patrick told Austin media outlet KXAN that he does not expect “any movement” on the issue this year. He previously shut down the idea during the 87th Legislature in 2021.

Lifting the casino ban or other gambling restrictions would require an amendment to the Texas Constitution, which would need the approval of two thirds of each house of the Legislature and a majority of voters statewide.

Supporters of legalizing casinos point to the money that flows out of state as Texans go elsewhere to gamble. Proponents of sports betting similarly say that there should be a legal option in the Lone Star State so the activity does not continue to operate in the dark without the consumer protections of a regulated market.

Others contend that legal gambling options could be an opportunity for the State of Texas to collect extra tax revenue, though a Legislature benefiting from a $32.7 billion budget surplus this biennium is unlikely to be receptive to that argument.

For his part, Phelan’s recent comments and those he made in 2021 center on economic development for the area surrounding the potential casinos. The tax argument is less persuasive to him.


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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."