‘I do know when it’s time to fold ‘em.’ Why odds are stacked against Texas casinos

·3 min read

A push for expanded casinos in Texas appears to have run its course.

“I do know when it’s time to fold ‘em,” said Rep. Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican, as he moved to delay a vote on his bill that would have allowed should have destination style resort casinos. Geren delayed the vote until January 2027, years past the end of the legislative session, marking the end for the bill.

Earlier in the day, a bill establishing the regulatory framework for destination resort style casinos in Texas was also delayed — effectively killing the bill.

There’s always a chance of twists in the time between Friday and May 29, when the session ends, but the odds are stacked against the proposals.

The measure would allow for a limited number of casinos with hotels, restaurants, meeting spaces, entertainment venues and shopping centers. Geren declined to comment on Friday.

Geren, laying out the bill Wednesday, said Texans already gambling at bordering states’ casinos. Bringing the resort-style businesses to Texas would create jobs, bring in billions in development investments and create a new revenue stream for the state.

“We’re not just talking about just any kind of casino,” he said. “We’re not talking about slot machines in 7-Elevens or a slot on every corner. ... We’re not even talking about slot machines in my restaurant.”

Geren owns Railhead Smokehouse.

The bill was amended on the floor to adjust where the casinos can be located and the number of casinos allowed.

After the revisions, Texas could have two in the Houston area, two in Dallas-Fort Worth, one in the San Antonio area, one in the Corpus Christi area, one in the Austin area, one in either the McAllen area or the Brownsville-Harlingen area, and one at a location where the Texas Racing Association “has issued or is considering issuing a racetrack license and at which the Texas Gaming Commission will authorize sports wagering or casino gaming.”

The ability to apply for casino licenses would be administered based on existing horse and dog racetrack licenses, setting up those who own racetracks to benefit. They could apply to open their own destination resort casino or designate someone else to, presumably through a sale.

Key players with racing licenses include the Chickasaw Nation through a subsidiary company, Penn Entertainment and the LaMantia family, known for beer distribution. The entities, as well as casino and resort company Las Vegas Sands, Houston billionaire Tilman Fertita’s Fertitta Entertainment are part of the Texas Destination Resort Alliance, which — with Sands taking the lead — has advocated for destination resort casinos in Texas.

Sands, through its political arm, has spent millions in campaign contributions to Texas officials and has enlisted a team of lobbyists in the push for the sites in Texas. A representative from the company testified before a panel of House lawmakers in March that they are in active negotiations for a license, were the casinos allowed by voters.

The House on Thursday advanced a separate set of proposals that would let voters decide whether to legalize online sports betting.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.