Patrick: Casinos, sports betting bills a waste of time

The prospects of gambling expansion in the Lone Star State became even dimmer as a casino bill by Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) failed to pass the Texas House and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick foreclosed consideration of the handful of gambling bills that did make it to his chamber.

A constitutional amendment to place commercial casinos on the ballot, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 155, passed to engrossment by a vote of 92 to 51. However, constitutional amendments need the support of two thirds of the chamber and the vote on third reading never happened.

In an apparent concession on Friday that the bill would not receive the required 100 votes, Geren successfully moved to postpone consideration of HJR 155 until after the end of the session, a procedural method of raising the white flag while avoiding a direct vote on a bill.

“I do know when it’s time to fold ‘em,” Geren quipped.

While Geren’s constitutional amendment expired on the House floor, the chamber did pass the enabling bill by Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin). Enabling legislation creates the changes to state law necessary to bring a constitutional amendment into practical effect.

On social media, Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer, unequivocally shut the door on gambling expansion as he has many times before.

“I’ve said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP. I polled members this week. Nothing changed,” Patrick wrote. “The senate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB1942 won’t be referred.”

On Mother’s Day, Patrick made similar comments about sports betting legislation.

“Texas is a red state. Yet the House vote on sports betting was carried by a Dem majority. The Texas Senate doesn’t pass bills with GOP in the minority,” Patrick wrote. “HJR 102 also will not be referred. Can’t waste committee/floor time in the last days.”

HJR 102 by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) is the constitutional amendment that would authorize a legal sports betting market. HB 1942 is the enabling legislation.

The next opportunity for gambling supporters to make their case to lawmakers will be the 89th Legislature beginning in January 2025, except in the unlikely scenario that Gov. Greg Abbott calls a special session to specifically consider casinos and sports betting.

Sports betting could technically still be passed this session if Patrick changed his mind. However, the casino proposals cannot succeed without HJR 155, and the deadline for the House to pass it was Friday.

Senior Vice President of Government Relations Andy Abboud at casino operator Las Vegas Sands said the company would continue to advocate for commercial casinos in Texas.

“Our efforts to bring destination resorts to Texas took an extraordinary step forward with the vote in the Texas House of Representatives. Although it narrowly fell short of the two-thirds threshold of support required for a constitutional amendment, there is no question that our efforts are on the right track,” Abboud said.

Las Vegas Sands spent millions of dollars and hired dozens of lobbyists to push casino bills this session.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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