Las Vegas Sands has set its sights on Dallas as the company lobbies for the legalisation of casinos in the Lone Star State. However, the firm could face an uphill climb, with lieutenant governor Dan Patrick stating that pro-gambling measures will not “see the light of day” this legislative session.
Despite the death of Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands new leadership team has opted to continue the firm’s lobbying efforts in Texas. “You can’t deny the power of Texas and the size and scale,” stated Rob Goldstein, Sands new chairman and CEO.
“We’ll look at the entire market of Texas, but focus primarily on Dallas because that is where the greatest bleed of money is going, across the Oklahoma border,” said Andy Abboud, Sands’ SVP of government affairs. “While it has a strong tourism industry, we can enhance that.”
Speaking during a recent interview, Abboud confirmed the company is looking to form a coalition of like-minded gaming companies, together with other gambling interests, and sports teams to lobby the state legislature. “Does it happen this legislative session? We will see. Does it happen in the near future? It is inevitable,” he affirmed.
A key challenge for legalising casinos will be the Texas Republican Party’s antipathy to gambling. State governor Greg Abbott, lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and attorney general Ken Paxton have all previously voiced their opposition to legal gaming in the Lone Star State.
The latest proposal to bring casinos to Texas has already received a chilly reception from Patrick. “I’m not a big supporter of it,” he stated, speaking in February.
Patrick blamed competing interests in the gaming industry for the failure of previous attempts to bring gambling to the state. “There’s so much infighting and competition among all the people in that arena; that’s why it never goes anywhere,” he added. “And so it’s not even an issue that’s going to see the light of day this session. There may be a bill filed, but I doubt it.”
Political analysts suggest legalisation is unlikely to gain traction without the support of the lieutenant governor. “Patrick has been very clear that casino gambling legislation will not see the light of day in 2021,” said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.
University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus explained that “the lieutenant governor is the most powerful political player in Texas”. “If he’s not in favour, it makes moving legislation nearly impossible,” he observed.
Despite the uphill political climb, Abboud remains unperturbed. “He’s a very impressive guy, and he has his political philosophies,” Abboud said of Patrick. “I am very optimistic and bullish on the fact that we are going to make a really compelling case.”
The executive also cited polling data which indicates Texans would vote to relax the state’s gambling restrictions if given the opportunity. “Voters are way ahead of where policymakers are,” he suggested.