Tilman Fertitta Says Texas Casinos Are Long Shots

Posted on: February 8, 2023, 01:03h. 

Last updated on: February 8, 2023, 02:51h.

Some key politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), are warming to the idea of casinos in Texas. But Tilman Fertitta believes the endeavor faces long odds.

Tilman Fertitta
Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, seen at a press conference. He says the odds of Texas having casinos are long. (Image: ESPN)

While Abbott has moved from being stridently opposed to casino gaming to being open to the idea, Fertitta cautions that the political makeup of both houses of the Texas legislature presents challenges to gaming expansion. Republicans control both chambers in the state.

Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) recently filed a bill that would allow for casino hotels in major cities in Texas. While there’s companion legislation in the state House, authored by Republican Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), Fertitta believes that until a GOP senator introduces a similar bill, odds of passage are long, reports The Daily News of Galveston County.

Texas lawmakers backing casinos are seeking to amend the state’s constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority in both houses. Should that happen, the matter would be put to voters in the next election. Various polls indicate voters in the state favor the addition of gaming venues.

Fertitta Favors Texas Casino, with Caveat

Fertitta’s namesake organization, Fertitta Entertainment, owns the Golden Nugget casinos and a 6.1% stake in Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN). Fertitta says he’s supportive of Texas adding casino resorts, so long as he can get in on the act.

As The Daily News reports, the Houston Rockets owner would like to bring a casino to Galveston, where he owns the San Luis Resort. His desire to control a Texas casino makes sense, because his Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, La., along with the other gaming venues in that state, would likely lose some business if casinos appear in Texas.

Galveston is one of the most-visited cities in the state, and was one of the region’s gaming hubs for several decades until the mid-1950s, when a casino there was shuttered by law enforcement.

Currently, Galvestonians’ views on their city potentially being home to a casino hotel aren’t clear. It is clear, however, that some residents believe too many tourists arrive each year, while others are concerned that a gaming venue may not benefit other local businesses.

Sports Betting Backers Look to Separate

While Geren’s bill also contains provisions for regulated sports wagering, there is separate legislation in  the Texas House and Senate that focuses solely on that issue. Some political insiders in Texas believe sports wagering is an easier lift than casinos, particularly if Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick softens his stance on the idea.

The Rockets, along with the other professional sports teams in Texas, are members of the Sports Betting Alliance. That group, whose membership includes several sportsbook operators, focuses solely on bringing regulated mobile sports wagering to Texas.

Among the Texas pro team owners, Fertitta and Dallas Cowboys boss Jerry Jones count casinos among their business interests. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has signaled interest in the industry if it’s permitted in the state. The prevailing wisdom is that the teams would be content with Texas approving sports betting, particularly if sportsbooks are allowed at arenas and stadiums.