Successful Texas Gambling Legislation Is Questionable as Dan Patrick Remains the Gatekeeper

Posted on: June 4, 2024, 08:31h. 

Last updated on: June 4, 2024, 09:23h.

Resort casinos are still a long shot in Texas with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), keeping power over whether the state Senate will seriously consider a proposal, according to state politics experts.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, pictured above controls the Texas Senate so chances are doubtful casino legislation will move forward. (Image: KERA)

“If Dan Patrick doesn’t support legislation, it won’t pass,” University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus recently told “He effectively controls the Senate and has an increased influence in the House after the primary elections.”

Rice University professor Mark P. Jones added to that Patrick “remains skeptical that the economic benefits of destination resort casinos are sufficient to compensate for the societal costs of casinos such as increases in personal bankruptcy, job absenteeism, domestic abuse, and other crime.”

“Unless Patrick is convinced that the economic benefits of casinos outweigh their social costs, he is unlikely to put pressure on the Republican senators to vote in favor of destination resort casino legislation,” Jones added.

Based on his public statements, Patrick will not bring the legislation to the floor [in next year’s session] unless at least 10 of the 19 Republican senators — possibly 11 of 20 in 2025 if Republican Adam Hinojosa defeats Democrat Morgan LaMantia in Senate District 27 this fall — are in support, and it is unlikely that a majority of the GOP state senators will publicly go on record in favor of the passage of legislation without Patrick intervening in support of the casino legislation.”

For gambling legislation to move through the legislature, there would have to be bipartisan support led by the Senate Republicans, according to Rottinghaus. In the current climate of political polarization, “that’s a tough sell.”

Patrick has also said a resort casino bill will need support from more Republicans than Democrats in the Senate, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Republicans currently outnumber Democrats in the Senate by 19-12.

“The Republican Party platform has a plank against gambling, and because this has become a bigger feature of primary elections for Republicans, it’s hard to see a lot of Republicans bending on this issue,” Rottinghaus added.

Senate Will Take the Lead

In next year’s session, the House apparently will let the Senate take the lead on any gambling expansion proposal.

After burning energy and political capital in 2023 when, regardless of what happened in the House, casino legislation was going to be dead on arrival in the Senate, the House is going to let the Texas Senate take the lead,” Jones said.

In 2023, House Republicans “incurred the wrath of the relatively small, but energized set of Republican primary voters who oppose casinos for nothing as the Senate’s steadfast opposition prevented casino supporters from gaining the final half dozen votes they needed to pass the casino legislation in the House,” Jones added.

Political Contributions

Political pressure to approve casino expansion is mounting as Miriam Adelson, the largest owner of Las Vegas Sands stock and a Republican megadonor, and other casino supporters, continue to spend tens of millions of dollars combined a year to back Texas gambling proposals.

Adelson has donated more than $10M this year, including to the Texas Defense PAC, which has supported multiple candidates in the primaries.

“The tens of millions donated by Miriam Adelson and others pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions companies such as the Sands Corporation stand to make annually if permitted to operate one or more massive destination resort casinos in Texas, a state whose two leading metro areas (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston) each have more residents than three dozen states,” Jones said.