By Jada Mier
AUSTIN – New, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House, HJR 133 by Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin. In the Senate, SJR 49 was introduced by Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. Both bills seek to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in the Lone Star State through a constitutional amendment.
The bills by state Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, and Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, would allow four casino resorts to be built in Austin, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Houston and San Antonio and would also legalize sports wagering. The state’s three federally-recognized Indian tribes would also be able to expand full-fledged gambling, including slot machines, on their land, a right the state has long denied them.
“Now is the time to let voters decide on legalizing casino gaming across Texas,” Alvarado said in a statement. “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.”
The number of casinos would be capped at four, not counting those built by tribes on Indian land. Three tribes currently operates casinos here, with limited gaming, slot machines, and Vegas-style table games. These are the Kickapoo tribe in Eagle Pass, the Tigual tribe in El Paso, and the Alabama-Coushatta tribe in Livingston. The state filed a lawsuit in 2017 to close these because they violated the Texas constitution ban on gambling, but federal Indian Gaming law allowed them, and the matter remains unresolved in the courts. Limited gambling would also be allowed at certain racetracks.
Senator Alvarado introduced the bill saying, “Bill SJR 49 is not to approve gambling, but it’s to give the voters the opportunity to vote on gaming. So, if it passed there would be an election in November, and Texans would go to the polls and vote on it. We would then come back in the next session, which is in 2023, and pass the enabling legislation, which would get into the specifics of gaming.”
Alvarado wanted to really emphasize that this is really just to let the voters decide. She explained that plan is not just gaming but a 4-5-star hotel, restaurants, shops, an entertainment complex as well as conference and convention center space.
“This is about gaming, but it’s about so much more. It’s about creating jobs, 185,000 jobs created through construction and development, 70,000 jobs that would be direct and ongoing.”
Weighing in on the probability of the bill being passed Alvarado says, “I am prepared for a tough uphill climb. I’ve been filing the gaming casino bill since 2009. This is the first time I have some Republican support. John Kuempel, the author of the bill, is a Republican, so we have a Democrat in the Senate and a Republican in the House, which is encouraging.”
There are only regions where these destination resorts would be, but no specific locations.
She encourages people to call their Texas legislators to support the bill. She says she hopes that people focus on the attraction of boosting our economy and creating jobs.
“Coming off the heels of the pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs. We have to continue to find ways to grow our economy. Although this would be six years out, we have to start someplace, and I think this is one way to generate jobs.”