Two key lawmakers to watch in the 2023 Texas legislative session are state Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) and state Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin).
Both have historically been at the forefront of Texas’ legal gambling legislation. Alvarado has filed legislation in the state Senate every term since 2009, and Kuempel has charted a similar course in the House of Representatives.
Casinos in Texas mean more jobs for residents
A substantial number of jobs are on the table in Alvarado’s eyes if the state passes one of her pieces of legislation, which would allow for four brick and mortar casinos, located in:
- San Antonio
These would be long-term, stable opportunities for people in many different hospitality and customer service industries. As a point of reference, the Winstar Casino on the Texas-Oklahoma border gives 60% of its jobs to Dallas residents. That’s 2,300 jobs going over the border for one casino.
Beyond opening four new casinos, the legislation would expand gambling opportunities available at tribal casinos. Currently, three tribes have casinos offering a very limited form of gaming:
- The Kickapoo Tribe in Eagle Pass
- The Tigua Tribe in El Paso
- The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe in Livingston
The Speaking Rock Entertainment Center in El Paso, where the Tiguas and Alabama-Coushatta operate, is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on their bingo operation. This wait has left the Eagle Pass casino as the only casino with significant Vegas-style gaming options.
Before the 2021 legislative session started, Alvarado set the tone for Texans who had seen neighboring states open their doors to legal gaming. Alvarado urged:
“Now is the time to let voters decide on legalized gaming across Texas. Texas loses billions of dollars a year to our neighboring states that allow gaming and this measure would bring that revenue back to Texas, create tens of thousands of jobs and cut down on illegal gambling.”
Lawmakers want to bring lost revenue back to Texas
Alvarado’s statement came before New York legalized sports gambling in January. And, as a result raked in over $1.6 billion in online and casino bets in their first month of operation.
The revenue potential for Texas, the second largest state and arguably the most sports-crazed populace in the country, is eye-watering.
Kuempel sees tax revenue from legal gambling as relieving property taxes and providing a boost to education. Also, the legislation he’s authored in the past carves out funding for:
- Community engagement
- Law enforcement
- Services to combat the social ills many worry legal gaming would cause
The Sands PAC, which fueled this legislation in the 2021 legislative session, is applying pressure on the 2023 legislative session as well.
They have donated heavily to Gov. Abbott, who has shifted over the last few years to a more amenable position on legal gaming. And Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont), is an active supporter of the legislation.
Phelan’s East Texas constituency has flooded over the border into Louisiana since the Pelican State legalized some forms of gambling. He’s “wholeheartedly” in support of keeping those people and their money in Texas.
Your vote for Texas governor can make a difference
Leading up to the 2023 legislative session, Abbott has kept quiet about his position on gambling. It’s an election year for him, so he’s likely playing it close to the vest. If he were to win the office, we could see the issue rise to the top of his agenda at the close of 2022.
He made waves in 2021 with legislation that raised teacher salaries. This is exactly the type of initiative gambling taxes would promote.
His opponent in the election, Beto O’Rourke, has taken a supportive position on legal gambling. At the top of his list of issues he’d like to focus on is education and jobs. He’s stated that the extra tax revenue from expanded gambling would help with educational reform, housing, and property taxes.
But regardless of who wins the gubernatorial race, Kuempel and Alvarado may have a supporter for their legislation in the governor’s seat.