Legal gambling and sports betting continue to be unavoidable topics of discussion in Texas. And for good reason. Texans love to gamble. And their current method of doing so is going across state lines or to illegal, offshore websites.
Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi recently told The Dallas Morning News that he’s also been thinking about casino gambling in Texas lately. He shared his opinions on the possibilities of casino resorts and Texas online sports betting and how they fit into the Stars’ future at American Airlines Center.
Are Texans ready for legal gambling?
State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, introduced State Joint Resolution 17 in advance of the current legislative session. The resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to create the Texas Gaming Commission, which would “authorize and regulate casino gaming at a limited number of destination resorts and facilities.”
It also sets a path for lawmakers to legalize retail sports betting in the future. The resolution needs a two-thirds majority in both houses to pass and make its way onto the ballot in November 2023, where voters would decide its fate.
Online-only sports betting bills have also been filed, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, with the endorsement of the Texas Sports Betting Alliance.
Gaglardi thinks legislators might not be ready for full-scale casinos, but online sports betting may be more within reach.
“I’m personally not sure about bricks and mortar and how I feel about that. It feels like that might be a stretch for Texas at this stage. I do think that online gambling is already here.”
A recent estimate suggests Texans are illegally betting around $8.7 million annually on sports, though others have questioned its accuracy. Nonetheless, a study from the American Gaming Association last year showed 75% of sports betting searches in California, Florida and Texas, the three largest unregulated markets in the US, are for offshore sites.
Sports betting is more critical for Stars than casinos are
Texas is missing out on millions of dollars in monthly revenue from sports betting and casino gaming. That money goes offshore and to resorts across the border, like Oklahoma casino resorts WinStar and Choctaw, the latter of which completed a $600 million expansion in 2021.
Gaglardi said he thinks casinos would move the needle significantly, believing that retail casinos are less popular in conservative states. Most revenue benefits would come from new casino partnerships and the money they pump into advertising.
Sports betting is a different story, though.
Last year, Stars CEO Brad Alberts spoke about how the revenue other NHL teams received from sports betting put the Stars at a competitive disadvantage, adding more urgency to legalize it in Texas.
“Every year, the salary cap goes up, and part of that is due to the increased revenue in sports betting. If the Stars can’t bring in that revenue, then we can’t keep pace with the cap and our ability to fund a competitive team suffers.”
Momentum continues to grow
Alberts said he is optimistic that Alvarado’s proposal will pass this year. Along with every other major sports franchise in Texas, the Stars are part of the Sports Betting Alliance, which is centered around legalizing and regulating sports betting in The Lone Star State.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is another vocal proponent of legal sports betting, saying it can help education and other community programs throughout Texas. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has even gone as far as to express a desire to build a new arena inside a casino resort if gambling is legalized. Cuban has a partnership with Las Vegas Sands, which operates luxury properties in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is also on board with resort-style casinos.
And Gaglardi is, too, despite his uncertainty they will come to fruition this year. He is president of the largest family-owned hospitality company in Canada and owns several businesses and properties in Texas, including two undeveloped lots adjacent to American Airlines Center. Gaglardi is still uncertain what will go in the lots.
“I think my best guess will be mixed-use, hotel, I see multi-family. To the extent that gambling happens, some of the gambling partners we’ve talked to are (saying), ‘Well, we’d love to build a gambling hotel.’ So, who knows.”
Gambling could determine arena’s future
Late in 2021, Cuban called into question the Mavericks’ future at American Airlines Center. He gave the Mavs less than a 50% chance to stay at AAC. He said the team would likely decide by 2024.
Meanwhile, Gaglardi wants to continue calling AAC home and hopes the Mavs stick around, too. Though the arena will be 22 years old this summer, Gaglardi said it’s still a marvelous structure and the Stars love it.
Cuban wants to build even greater things in Dallas. If gambling remains illegal for the next few years, he will probably put his plans on pause.
But what if he could play a part in opening a casino?