Bills filed that would allow Texans to vote on legalizing casinos, sports gambling in November
AUSTIN, Texas - There is growing bipartisan support for legalizing gambling in the state of Texas.
Republican State Rep. Charlie Geren, who represents parts of Tarrant County, filed a bill that would allow Texans to decide whether they want it.
His bill mirrors one that was already filed by a Houston Democrat in the Texas State Senate.
Rep. Geren said that while some of his fellow Republicans don’t personally support gambling, they think it should be up to Texas voters, signaling bipartisan support for this in the state House and Senate.
When Texans talk about casinos, it typically involves a road trip to Oklahoma or another state where gambling is legal.
Friday, Rep. Geren filed a joint resolution to let voters decide whether to legalize casinos.
"We have Texas citizens going to Mew Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and frankly going to Las Vegas," Geren said. We are not looking to have a slot machine in every corner store. What we are looking for is resort destinations, and if this passes, the Legislature will decide what type of sports betting will be allowed."
The scope of the casino push is narrow, having a select number of resort locations.
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Houston Democrat Senator Carol Alvarado already filed similar legislation.
"We are talking about casinos that would have to have a hotel component, four or five star hotel, restaurants and shops, venue for conferences and conventions," Alvarado explained. "This is not setting up a blackjack table or putting a slot machine in convenience store or a bar. It would be very limited, four casinos in Texas, and they would be heavily regulated."
Alvarado claims this could create 185,000 direct and indirect jobs, and Geren agrees.
"These destination resorts will not only have casinos, they will have show rooms, they will have restaurants, they will have shopping, and all of that will generate money for the state," he added.
Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan has expressed support for casinos. Governor Greg Abbott has said he is willing to listen, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been quiet on the topic.
Both lawmakers think that with legislators less hung up on the morality of gambling, this year could be the perfect time to make a move.
"Texans deserve the right to vote on this because they are traveling to so many other states nearby or further away to gamble, Texans love to gamble," Alvarado said.
If lawmakers pass this, the public vote would be on the November ballot.