Everything’s bigger in Texas—except for the state’s gambling industry.
The Lone Star State has long had a ban on gambling, but billionaires are trying to change that law, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. Big names like Tilman Fertitta, Miriam Adelson, and Mark Cuban have all expressed a desire for casinos and the like to open in Texas, a move they say would bring jobs and economic opportunity to the state.
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“Let’s do something to bring tourism and the business traveler and conventions to Texas—and these need to be billion-dollar properties that do that,” Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget casino company, told Bloomberg. “We need to do it right and build the casinos, and not have a bunch of slot machines at every single little grocery store.”
While some, like Fertitta, have been fighting to bring gambling to Texas for years, the push has become even more pronounced in recent months. Adelson, whose family is behind the Las Vegas Sands company, bought the Dallas Mavericks last year, and she and her kin have been increasing their political donations and recruiting more lobbyists in the state, Bloomberg noted. Mark Cuban, the billionaire whom they bought the team from, has also started talking up casino-based resorts and the benefits they could bring to Texas.
“Look at the size, scope, and economics of resort destinations with and without a casino,” Cuban told Bloomberg in an email. “Even though the casino isn’t a huge part of the economics, it supports scale and depth.”
Everyday Texans have also shown their interest in gambling: They spend some $5 billion a year placing bets and playing games in adjacent states and in Las Vegas, the political scientist Clyde Barrow said. And about 75 percent of Texans support bringing casino-style resorts to the state, according to a poll from January 2023. Plus, one consultant said that just seven proposed casino projects could add $7.7 billion and 48,000 jobs to Texas.
Still, Fertitta and his ilk face pushback from Texans who have qualms with gambling, some from a moral standpoint and some who just don’t want to put casinos in their home state. As far as politics go, though, people like Adelson and Fertitta might be hoping that their roots in Texas—and their donations—help sway some of the decision-makers in the statehouse.
“Having [the Adelsons’] presence here in Dallas certainly helps the conversation,” Texas State Senator Carol Alvarado told Bloomberg. “It’s not a slam dunk. It doesn’t mean it’s going to automatically happen, but it definitely will help to elevate the conversation and maybe get people to think twice about it.”