Las Vegas Sands Texas Casino Effort Fails in ’21, Legislative Future Is Debatable

Posted on: May 28, 2021, 12:09h. 

Last updated on: May 28, 2021, 04:57h.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) spent between $10 milli0n and $20 million in recent months to promote gambling legislation in Texas. The company “has absolutely nothing to show for its money,” says Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones.

Millions of dollars were spent on ads and lobbyists
LVS government relations head Andy Abboud shown here. Abboud led the company’s effort to pave the way for casino gambling in Texas. Bills failed this year, but proposals likely will return in the future. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The money paid for at least 51 lobbyists and a large pro-gambling ad campaign. But bills that would have allowed a statewide vote on whether to permit resort casinos recently died in legislative committees. The current session closes on Monday.

Republican politicians who pose casino gambling and kept gambling bills from getting out of committees have not notified their opposition, Jones, a fellow at the Baker Institute, told Casino.org.

“And a substantial majority of the Texas public still professes soft support for casino gambling, while an intense minority still opposes casino gambling,” Jones added.

Las Vegas Sands may contend that they have somehow ‘set the stage’ for the next biennial legislative session in 2023. But the reality is that by then, the 2021 LVS campaign will be nothing but a distant memory,” Jones predicted.

“The only ones who benefited from the Las Vegas Sands’ ill-fated attempt to convert the Lone Star State into a casino gambling state are the lobbyists and consultants whose bank accounts were enriched by wire transfers from Las Vegas to Texas.”

Texas Gaming Aways Away

Looking ahead, Jones says someday Texas will allow casino gambling. “But that day is not in 2021, nor likely in 2023 or 2025,” Jones added.

When asked about the bills’ demise, Clyde W. Barrow, chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas Rio, Grande Valley said it “does not come as a surprise.

There are a large number of political obstacles to expanding gambling in Texas. And expanded gambling campaigns in most states tend to be multi-year campaigns — often lasting 10 to 15 years,” Barrow told Casino.org.

He adds that the presence of LVS in the recent effort led to “The first serious consideration of the issue in Texas.”

Texas Expanded Gambling Proposals Will Return

“There is no doubt that expanded gambling will be back for the next regular legislative session. But it will start with a stronger base of support next time,” Barrow predicts.

“Expanded gaming, including casinos and sports betting, has picked up steam in Texas as a result of the LVS lobbying initiative.”

So, he does not view the LVS effort as a waste of money. “The risk was proportionate to the potential reward, which is enormous,” Barrow said.

LVS Focuses on Long Haul

Earlier this week, Andy Abboud, LVS’s vice president of government relations, was quoted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal that, “We have said from the beginning that we’re committed to Texas for the long haul.

“We have made great strides this session and have enjoyed meeting with lawmakers about our vision for destination resorts and answering all the questions they have.”

When asked about Abboud’s comments, University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said they make “perfect sense. Lobbying Texas is more like playing poker than blackjack — you have to think long-term rather than short term.”

Rottinghaus agreed it “can take multiple sessions in the Texas legislature to pass a major financial initiative, so it isn’t surprising that efforts to expand gaming will take more than one session.”

“Big initiatives take big money and several years to come to fruition,” Rottinghaus told Casino.org. “Setting the stage now through lobbying is the only way to get the issue in front of the members to possibly have it pass later.”