Coming a long way from his 2015 position when he “wholeheartedly” opposed the expansion of gambling in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott at least seems open to discuss the issue now.
A massive donation from the head of a pro-gambling PAC could explain the about-face.
Statement from Abbott press secretary hopeful
Other than a couple tribal-run casinos in South Texas far away from any major cities, the state has no retail casinos and does not allow online gambling, including sports betting. All efforts to expand gambling in The Lone Star State have been dashed in the Texas Statehouse.
In a statement provided to the Houston Chronicle, Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, delivered Abbott’s evolved position on the issue.
“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store. We don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses. And we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming. But, if there is a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Gov. Abbott would take a look at it.”
The response invokes many of the problems Texans associate with gambling houses – reckless gambling, seedy establishments and also criminal activity – and emphasizes an interest in “professional entertainment” as the workaround.
This type of rhetoric is the same invoked by Sen. Carol Alvarado during her many attempts to bring gambling legislation to the Senate floor. As a longstanding filer of casino legislation in the Texas House and also the Senate, Alvarado has consistently emphasized luxury resort casinos. Her vision is Texas resort casinos outdoing those in neighboring Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Abbott’s emphasis on a similar class of casino suggests an interest in making Texas a new destination for gaming entertainment.
Abbott campaign receives $1M donation
Dr. Miriam Adelson sent the Abbott campaign a $1 million check last month. That’s according to recent campaign finance documents filed by pro-gambling Las Vegas Sands PAC.
Adelson is the majority shareholder of the company and has directly donated more than $2 million to Texas politicians in the 2022 election cycle.
The $1 million direct check from Adelson was not Sands’s only endorsement of Abbott in the closing weeks of the election. On Sept. 28, Texas Sands, the Texas wing of Adelson’s PAC, sent $50,000 to the Abbott campaign.
So far, they’ve donated no money to gubernatorial opponent Beto O’Rourke, who openly endorsed legal gambling in Texas back in April.
Abbott’s position distances him from party
For years, the Texas Republican Party has built opposition to gambling expansion into the party platform.
Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, has scoffed at Texas legalizing gambling, stating that legislation of that kind would never “see the light of day.”
State Comptroller Glen Hegar has snubbed it as well, noting that Texas’s economy did well enough without needing gambling revenue to bolster it.
This isn’t the first time Abbott has shown interest in legal gambling. Back in 2021, he discussed legal gambling in a radio interview.
“And so what we all need to hear is what is the voice and the pulse of our constituents, and one of the best ways to get that is talking directly to the members who will talk to their constituents about it.”
Tight election race ends silence on gambling
Not since April have Texans heard much about legal gambling from either gubernatorial candidate. It’s been mainly incendiary issues filling the airwaves and also the lone gubernatorial debate.
Recent polls show O’Rourke closing the gap on Abbott. The governor might think the topic could net him some votes from undecided voters.