Rep. Ryan Guillen Could Be Key To Legalized Gambling In Texas

Written By Aleeyah Jadavji on January 31, 2023 - Last Updated on February 24, 2023
Texas Rep. Ryan Guillen could be key proponent of legal gambling

Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, of District 31 was, at the time, the youngest representative ever elected to the Texas Legislature at the age of 24. Two decades later, Guillen could be a key proponent to legalize gambling in the state.

Longtime Democrat became a Republican in 2021 following redistricting

While most types of gambling are prohibited in Texas, there’s hope that the 2023 session of the Texas Legislature could change that. Texas Casinos and Texas online sports betting measures should be up for debate this year at the statehouse.

Guillen, 45, is a longtime Democrat who switched parties in 2021 following a redistricting in South Texas. He was first elected in 2002.

The Texas native was raised in Rio Grande City and grew up working at his parents’ feed store and family farm. Guillen studied to earn a degree in agriculture followed by a career as a high school teacher before deciding to serve in public office. According to his website, Guillen was seriously hurt in a car accident as a teenager. He then lost both his mother and stepfather in a separate vehicle accident. These tragic events led him to dedicate his life to serving others.

Guillen and his wife, Dalinda, have two young daughters.

Guillen’s website lists some of the issues he’s championing.

  • Cutting taxes
  • Creating jobs
  • Slowing inflation
  • Improving road conditions and infrastructure
  • Reducing crime

Guillen also supports the legalization of gambling. His campaign received a hefty donation from the Texas Sands PAC, the pro-gambling lobbying group, in the last election.

Move to Republican Party was not a surprise

While Guillen’s jump to the Republican Party followed redistricting, Guillen said in 2021 that he made the move for other reasons. He was against the Democratic party’s push to defund the police, and he had disagreements with the party over immigration and border security.

“I have found that my core beliefs align with the Republican Party. I am confident that my switch today is the right decision.”

Gov. Greg Abbott echoed that at a news conference after Guillen made the switch.

“Everybody has known that Ryan Guillen is really a Republican who is attached to the wrong label. Ryan, we’re glad you finally came out of the closet.”

Pro-gambling PAC gave $25,000 to Guillen’s campaign

With Guillen’s campaign receiving $25,000 from Las Vegas Sands PAC, expectations are high that he could be a key supporter of legalized gambling during this session of the Texas Legislature.

Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Cynthia Sakulenzki put forth a personal request urging him and other elected officials to bring casino resorts to Texas.

“We definitely don’t need people going to Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and leaving their tax dollars there, when they could be spending it here at our hotels and our restaurants.”

It appears that Guillen has listened. Working with Texans For Hold’em, Guillen has sponsored legislation (House Bill 2345) to change the laws around poker rooms in the state in order to give more favorable definitions to key terms that allow for the existence of those rooms.

Photo by Ryan Guillen Facebook page
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Aleeyah Jadavji

Aleeyah hails from Toronto, Ontario in Canada and has been working predominantly in the poker industry since 2015. From writing articles, to interviewing big winners and live reporting on poker's biggest stages, she's seen it all. She currently covers legal gaming's legislative pathway for PlayTexas. Aleeyah loves to cook and create content to showcase her passion for food and travel. She also loves sriracha, and doesn't trust anyone that believes it's not a top-tier condiment.

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