Las Vegas Sands’ owner Sheldon Adelson’s ambition for bringing casinos to Texas grows.
Las Vegas Sands’ Appetite for Texas Confirmed
Sheldon Adelson has recently recruited eight powerful lobbyists in Texas for the upcoming legislative session in January 2021, which stirred up rumors that Las Vegas Sands Corporation has an eye on Texas. The speculations have been confirmed this Tuesday at a conference organized by Austin-based Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.
During the conference, Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government relations for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., gave a half-hour pitch for legalizing gambling in the state. “Texas is considered the biggest plum still waiting to be out there in the history of hospitality and gaming,” said Abboud.
He also promoted legalization with strong arguments such as “strict regulatory environment,” “a limited number of destination resorts in Texas,” and “blending with the existing infrastructure” as opposed to a Las Vegas replica.
This interest is publicly announced not long after Adelson and his wife Miriam became mega-donors to the Republican party for the November election, donating $4.5 million to a Texas account affiliated with the Republican State Leadership Committee this September, to preserve the majority of the Republican party in the state House.
Abboud also prompted lawmakers to require bidders to make a minimum investment of $1-$3 billion to make it mandatory for bidding companies to build the best possible facility.
State Leaders’ Retaliation Response
Currently, there are few exceptions in the state laws regarding gambling which include bingo, horse and greyhound dog races, and the state lottery. However, in the past few years, state leaders have shown little to no interest in easing the measures regarding gambling through changing laws and regulations. For example, in November 2015, Gov. Greg Abbot expressed his support for the strict restrictions regarding gambling by ordering Texas Lottery officials to seize efforts to explore sports betting games expansion.
Rob Kohler, a veteran lobbyist against gambling, argued on Wednesday: “We think that the elected members of the Legislature, as in the past, would recognize that this type of opportunity is not economic development and will end up hurting the state more than it would end up helping it”.
Jonathan Covey, policy director for Texas Values also stated that the legalization of casinos is not good for the economy of the state as well as the families and it is not supported in Texas.
Texas and Gambling
It is hard to believe that it is possible to get a fine in Texas by playing Texas Hold ‘Em, one of the most popular card games in the world and named after the state.
There is a complexity to Texas’ strict laws on gambling and some of the reasons can be traced back to the 1920s, when the 18th amendment to the United States Constitution passed and prohibited gambling and alcohol in the country. After the amendment was repealed in 1933, Texas remained the state with the strictest laws in the country regarding gambling.
A Potential World-class Market
The current decline of oil and natural gas revenue, as well as the global situation, can necessitate Texas Legislature to consider other opportunities for revenue.
Abboud expressed his opinion that Texas can become a world-class gambling destination like New York, Japan, and Brazil. He also stated that casinos can create jobs, generate tremendous purchasing power, and tax revenue.
Could Texas have a change of heart on gambling in these unprecedented turbulent times? The first stage towards changes in legislation could happen as early as next year when “the state of Legislature put in on the ballot and let voters decide”, according to Andy Abboud.
One thing is certain – many people are anticipating the results from Las Vegas Sands’ efforts.