Casinos in Texas: Dallas City Council divided over statewide gambling

Not long after a casino mogul bought a majority share of the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas City Council committees are now considering whether the city should be part of the state's conversation about legalizing gambling statewide in Texas. 

It's a topic that has council members divided.

Some councilmembers say legalizing gambling statewide would be a way to help fund the still-struggling Dallas police and fire pension while others say they are concerned that gambling amounts to a tax on the poor. 

The topic first surfaced at the economic development committee earlier this month. 

The conversation about whether the city of Dallas should call on state lawmakers to legalize casino gambling and sports wagering statewide is happening against the backdrop of the city's new potential stake in the casino world. 

In November, the Las Vegas Sands Casino owners bought a majority share of the Dallas Mavericks from Mark Cuban, and the families also bought a prime development site near Downtown Dallas.

The more than a dozen acres bought by the casino moguls are on Stemmons Freeway at Inspiration Drive in the Design District across from Victory Park.

With the exception of Native American lands that fall under federal gaming guidelines, casino gambling is illegal in Texas.

In a Jan. 9 meeting, Councilman Adam Bazaldua argued that casinos could help provide revenue for the troubled Dallas police and fire pension. 

"I see this as a huge, missed opportunity if we don't tap into a new statewide source of revenue for police and fire pension," he said.

Sands Corp has lobbied the state legislature for years on casino gambling — first under the control of the late Sheldon Adelson and now through his wife Miriam.


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Councilman Chad West added that universities could benefit. 

"The bills proposed in the last term, both of them were going to allocate 80% of revenue into university funds to try to help with our rankings," he said.

But Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold argued casinos could lead to more challenges for police.

"We need to have a conversation with public safety. DPD needs to weigh in on this. Marshalls, FBI, everyone who has a hand in this city in public safety," she said.

Arnold also expressed concerns that gambling amounts to a tax on the poor. 

"Seldom do you see millionaires in the casinos," she said. "Those are poor people because it is all about the wish and dream."

A company formed by Sands Corp also purchased 200 acres on State Highway 114 and Loop 12, the southern gateway to Irving.