Pro-Gambling Dallas City Councilman Looks To Open Up Dialogue On Casinos

Written By Phil West on January 19, 2024
Photo of the Dallas skyline on a story about how one council member wants to have a forum about legalized gambling.

A Dallas City Council member who has been supportive of efforts to legalize gambling in the Lone Star State – and in his city in particular – is bringing the conversation to city officials later this month.

Chad West, who has spearheaded efforts to resolve questions about whether card rooms should be legal in Dallas, will meet with the city’s Government Performance and Financial Management Committee on Jan. 22 to open up dialogue on the gambling issue. In an email to constituents sent on Friday morning, West urged action by city officials now.

“I believe that the state is already on the path to [the] legalization of gambling. If Dallas does not find a way to mitigate/address public concerns and to capitalize on the benefits of regulated gambling, we could lose our chance to be first to market for casino opportunities, which will gladly be swallowed up by cities like Irving and Arlington.”

West wants to address some councilmembers’ concerns over legal gambling

In Texas, both online casinos and commercial casinos remain illegal. Presently, players in the state can play at social and sweepstakes casinos online for prizes. There are also three tribal-run casinos with limited gaming options.

To support what West terms “this potential economic and tourism windfall for Dallas,” he’ll present to the committee with two special guests. One is VisitDallas CEO Craig Davis, who oversees that organization’s tourism generation efforts. The other is recently-retired Pittsburgh County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. He will be talking about the pros and cons his Keystone State city experienced in bringing in gambling.

West told PlayTexas that he wants city leaders to hear about legalization efforts in other states.

“The council is considering whether to include legalization of casino games, gambling and card rooms to our legislative agenda (for lobbying the state of Texas) for the next session. The council has been non-committal on whether it will support legalization or not, so I’m giving everyone an opportunity to talk with former government and tourism officials from the city of Pittsburgh, who have been through the process of legalization of gambling.”

West noted in his email that another Dallas City Council member, Paul Ridley, “said he is against legalizing casino gambling ‘because I think it results in a tax on the poor.’”

Regarding a recent Economic Development Committee meeting earlier in the week, West said “members punted on whether or not to include support for legalization of gambling in Texas as part of our state legislative priorities.”

“Some colleagues expressed concerns about public safety and the impact on residents.”

Cuban also advocating for commercial casinos in Texas

West isn’t the only advocate for legalizing gambling in Texas and steering Dallas toward the potential windfall.

Mark Cuban, who recently aligned with the Las Vegas Sands Corporation in an ownership transfer of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, recently sold land via one of his companies to Sands near the American Airlines Arena that the Mavericks call home. Cuban has been advocating for legalized gambling in Texas since December 2022, when his engagement with the Sands group became more widely known.

The Las Vegas-based company also made a 108-acre land purchase near the former Texas Stadium site in Irving this past July. It is earmarked by Sands as a potential resort location should destination resort casinos become legal in The Lone Star State.

Though legislative action can’t be taken until the Texas Legislature convenes again in 2025 (possibly sooner if the governor calls a special session), West believes that gambling could be legalized in the next couple years … and he doesn’t want his city to miss out.

West also wants the city to decide the legal card room issue.

“The recent Government Performance & Financial Management committee (of the city council) meeting brought to light the fact that Dallas city staff had taken no action to date regarding the creation of a legal path forward for operation for legitimate game room operators. This is despite the fact that the Dallas City Council directed them to do so in February 2023.”

Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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