Democrat Beto O’Rourke said if elected governor he was “inclined to support” the expansion of legal casino gambling and sports betting in Texas, the first time he publicly addressed the issue on the track.

At a press conference in Dallas, O’Rourke said Texans were already crossing state lines for casino gambling and sports betting and that Texas was losing billions of dollars in revenue that went to others. states.

“Listening to Texans across the state, that’s one, a very popular proposition, and two, it would also help us address some of the challenges we face in reducing inflation and property taxes in the state.” , O’Rourke said. “So I think that deserves to be looked at very closely and that’s something I’m inclined to support.”

O’Rourke’s also talked about legalizing marijuana to generate more revenue for the state budget. The combination of additional money from gambling and marijuana would allow the state to reduce its reliance on property taxes to fund the government.

But doing so is no easy feat in Texas, where the Republican-held legislature hasn’t paid much attention to the issue at all.

Currently, the Texas Constitution prohibits the expansion of gambling, a provision that current Governor Greg Abbott has supported and defended in the past.

To change the constitution, casino supporters would need to get two-thirds of the House and Senate to support putting a measure on the ballot.

Additionally, the Texas Republican Party platform specifically states its opposition to any expansion of gambling: “We oppose and call for a veto of any budget that relies on the expansion of legalized gambling as a method of funding.”

Still, gambling interests outside of Texas have hired lobbyists and made large donations to Republican leaders in Texas over the past few years in an attempt to get lawmakers to consider expanding gambling. The late Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul, sent $5 million in campaign donations to Texas politicians in the six months before his death in early 2021 to influence GOP leaders including Abbott.

Prior to last year’s Texas legislative session, casino companies were in no doubt about how important Texas was to them.

“Texas is considered the biggest plum still waiting to be there in the history of hospitality and gaming,” said Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government relations for Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The neighboring states of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana all have legal casino gambling. Both Louisiana and Arkansas have legal sports betting.

Texas has a Native American casinos. The Lucky Eagle Casino is located on the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas reservation at Eagle Pass. It operates under federal regulation due to the status of the tribe.

Yet despite all the pressure on Texas to expand the game, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican, said in February 2021 that there was no chance the Texas Senate would expand the options. of game.

“It’s not even a problem that’s going to come up this session,” Patrick said then.

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