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Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said he is open to bringing resort-style casinos to the state. In a brief interview with reporters on Thursday, he said he believes voters would approve the constitutional amendment needed to expand gambling.
As reported by Dallas News, Phelan said that while he does not want to see gaming spread limitlessly, he would support it in a controlled fashion. “I want to see destination-style casinos that are high quality and that create jobs and that improve the lifestyle of those communities," he stated. These resorts were described as having golf courses, hotels and concert venues that are “major economic providers.”
However, attempts to expand gambling in Texas have gone nowhere in the past sessions. But not willing to give up, the industry is now gearing up for yet another strong push to bring gaming of some kind to one of the last major untapped markets in the US. Phelan’s words of support signal a potentially positive outcome, though other state leaders are more lukewarm.
Phelan's new statements are in line with Governor Greg Abbott's current stance. While he was once a firm opponent, last fall he said he would consider expanding casino gambling with the right proposal. His vision of gambling in Texas mirrors that of the House Speaker, as he stated he does not want slot machines on every corner, but would be willing to favor a "very professional entertainment option" for Texans.
Last session, representatives for gambling giant Las Vegas Sands said the Dallas-Fort Worth area would be the top target location for a casino resort if gaming was legalized due to its strong convention and tourism industry and proximity to airports.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently told The Dallas Morning News his goal, in partnership with Las Vegas Sands, is to build a new arena in the middle of a resort and casino.
The Sands team, one of several promoting expanding gambling this session, has already brought on 35 lobbyists this year with a potential price tag of up to $2.7 million, according to records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
A push for sports betting is also underway, with Senator Carol Alvarado having filed a bill that would also legalize casino gambling. In addition to allowing four casino resorts in major Texas cities, it would create the Texas Gaming Commission.
As reported by Khou 11, Alvarado stated she is encouraged by Phelan’s support, and is looking forward to working with members in both chambers to pass SJR-17 through the Texas Legislature and onto the next November ballot.
In order to expand any form of gambling, two-thirds of members in the House and Senate must sign off, and then the proposal must go before Texas voters in a constitutional amendment election. Lawmakers have until early March to file bills.