Abbott outlines vision for Texas gambling expansion as legislative season continues

Gov. Greg Abbott
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Gov. Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, has revealed he is open to the idea of gambling expansion in the Lone Star State, but that there are certain boundaries and terms he would like to set out. 

Speaking to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gov. Abbott noted that he would be open to casinos opening in Texas, if it was done in a ‘professional’ way. 

“If it can be built in a way that is, kind of like a professional operation that provides a form of entertainment for people, that’s something I can be open to,” Abbott told the Star-Telegram.

It comes as several parties including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban back a plan to open a Las Vegas-style resort in Texas, whilst others want to introduce slot machines to establishments state-wide. 

HJR97, filed by Rep. Charlie Geren, would see the introduction of seven “destination resorts” across the Lone Star state, including the state’s racetracks that hold a pari-mutuel license.

From his comments, it would appear that the governor would not support such proposals. He noted that the legislation, if passed, would not be dead on arrival, but did not seem wholly convinced.

Abbott wants to ensure that with any expansion of gaming, the safety of players is the number one priority. 

He explained: “We need, and have an obligation, to make sure that we will not be setting up a system where people without means are using money that they need to pay their bills, to gamble it away and maybe lose it.

“We need to safeguard against that, as well as make sure no operation is being set up that would lead to any type of crime.”

Whilst casino gaming has been touted for Texas this year, sports betting is also on the lips of many onlookers and industry stakeholders. 

And Gov. Abbott seemed more receptive to sports betting than he did to casino expansion this year. There have been several sports betting and gaming bills that have been filed this legislative season leading some to think that Texas has a good chance of heading to a public vote this year. 

One such bill – SB715 filed by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst – gained the support of the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, offers a tax rate of 10%, and allows promo credit deductions. 

Abbott did not refer to any particular bill, however, appeared to be supportive of sports betting coming to Texas generally, labeling the act as ‘a form of entertainment’. 

He outlined: “I’m such a sports fan, and I see people doing this, and it’s really a form of entertainment for them, and it’s also kind of related to these sports leagues — like fantasy football, things like that — that people participate in.

“Fantasy sports is such a big thing in Texas already. It seems like there could be a way where we could create a system where something like this could happen.”

Texas is surrounded by sports betting states, so with many players leaving state borders to play in Arizona, Louisiana or Kansas, legislators may be more minded to press the green button on a sports betting vote sooner rather than later.