SAN ANTONIO – There’s a new push in the state capitol for legal casinos and sports betting in Texas right before the legislative session gets underway on Jan. 10.
Texas State Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) recently filed bill SJR 17 in the legislature.
If passed, the bill would authorize and regulate casino gaming at a limited number of destination resorts and facilities in Texas with San Antonio being one of them. The other destinations Alvarado mentioned would be Austin, Dallas and Houston.
“This is something I’ve been pushing for quite some time because I believe it diversifies our economy. It makes Texas a destination place with resorts and all sorts of amenities,” said Alvarado.
The bill also states that facilities licensed by a proposed Texas Gaming Commission would require occupational licenses to conduct casino gaming and require the imposition of a tax.
“This would have to be a casino that has a four- or five-star hotel, shops and restaurants,” said Alvarado. “The regulations and everything for a licensee to even bid will be pretty strict. You’ll have to go through extensive background checks and everything else. So these would be very specific.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has staunchly opposed any form of legalized gambling in Texas, saying the Senate would not have enough votes to send the amendment to the voters.
But Alvarado is staying optimistic because she said she’s started to receive bipartisan support on the topic.
“It gives others that maybe were hesitant a second look and say, ‘we’re not exactly approving gaming, we’re just going to allow Texans to vote on it,’” said Alvarado. “Last session was the first time that we had a Democrat and Republican sponsoring the bill in the House and the Senate.”
Alvarado added it could bring thousands of jobs to these specific metropolitan areas and keep millions of dollars in the state that would otherwise go to neighboring states that legalized some form of gambling.
Texas is currently one of 14 states that have not approved legalized sports betting.
“This is not somebody putting up a slot machine or blackjack table in a restaurant, a bar or convenience store. This is something that will spur some job growth, add value to our economy,” said Alvarado.
The bill would need two-thirds support by the state legislature before it can go to Texas voters.
“We have to pass a constitutional amendment. It has to go before the voters and once the voters approve us to have gaming in Texas, then the legislature would come back and a gaming commission is established. That’s where a lot of the critical parts of this have worked out,” said Alvarado.
In response to Sen. Alvarado’s proposed bill, Visit San Antonio released the following statement attributed to Marc Anderson, President & CEO at Visit San Antonio:
“We monitor all bills that may affect our local tourism and hospitality industry. It is too early to tell what any potential impact may be if gambling becomes legal. We will follow the lead of our partners, most importantly, city leadership.”