There is a battle in the state of Texas to expand gambling and create the infrastructure for legalized sports betting. In the Texas Senate, Sen. Carol Alvarado is spearheading the push to legalize casinos in the state. Her counterpart in the House is Rep. John Kuempel.
Much has been written about the Houston Democrat’s efforts in the Texas Senate. Far less has been made of the Seguin Republican’s drive to convince his fellow lawmakers in the House to back his pro-gambling legislation.
Who is state Rep. John Kuempel?
Currently, Texas gambling is outlawed, including commercial casino gambling and sports betting. A joint resolution from Alvarado in the Senate and Kuempel in the House aims to change that.
Kuempel was first sworn into the Texas House of Representatives in 2010. He is currently serving his sixth term as a representative for Texas’ 44th District, which includes Guadalupe and Wilson counties in the greater San Antonio area.
Kuempel was born May 11, 1970, and was raised in the town of Seguin, where he graduated high school before attending the University of Texas in Austin. After graduating, he began his professional life as a salesperson for Commercial Metals Company in Seguin.
In addition to his duties as the state representative, Kuempel also serves as vice chair of the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. In that capacity, he overseers all occupational licenses in the state. That could include licenses for casinos or online sportsbooks if they became legal in Texas.
Kuempel also serves as vice chair on the Environmental Regulation Committee, which oversees air, land and water pollution as well as environmental regulation over industrial development. That’s another committee that would be key if commercial casinos ever come to the state.
Kuempel’s father, Edmund, held the same 44th District seat from 1983 until his death in 2010. In fact. Sen. Alvarado’s work on legal gambling actually began with the support of Edmund Kuempel.
What impact can Kuempel have on gambling legislation?
In the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature, Kuempel put forward a bill, HJR 133, as a counterpart to Alvarado’s gambling expansion bill (SRJ 13) in the Senate. That legislation received a committee hearing, but it did not make it out of committee.
Kuempel will serve the same role in 2023, hoping for a better outcome for this year’s legislation.
A major financial supporter of Kuempel’s political career is the Texas Sands PAC, a pro-gambling lobbyist group of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Sands PAC heavily influenced the 2021 push to expand casino gambling in Texas and is doing so again in 2023. The group has also donated significant money to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
As a Republican, Kuempel’s impact on the legalization could be immense. He is well connected to the majority party in the House, and the fact that Alvarado is a democrat gives their legislation bipartisan appeal.
How would Kuempel use the tax money from gaming?
The amount of money that would come to the state through taxes if Texas legalized casinos and sports betting is significant. By comparison, New Jersey, which has a mature casino market including 10 casinos, generated $180 million in casino revenue in 2022.
Kuempel has made his intentions clear on how he would use the enormous amount of tax money. His top priority would be community services, like property tax deductions. His second priority would be to fund law enforcement efforts. The third area Kuempel would use the tax money on would be to combat social problems stemming from legal gambling. Finally, he would like to see money go to schools.
There’s no denying that if gambling is ever expanded and sports betting is legalized in the state of Texas, Rep. John Kuempel will play a major role in making the happen.