Posted on: April 21, 2022, 08:09h.
Last updated on: April 21, 2022, 12:01h.
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke told reporters in a Dallas neighborhood Wednesday that he would consider backing efforts to expand gaming in the Lone Star State. That would include legalizing casinos and sports betting.
O’Rourke made his comments during a press conference in Oak Cliff, attacking Gov. Greg Abbott (R). His beef was over policies that the challenger claimed have caused property taxes and other costs to rise exponentially across the state. Abbott is the Republican incumbent and his opponent in the November general election.
He is the single greatest driver of inflation in the state of Texas, and it’s causing real pain to our fellow Texans right now,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke, an El Paso native and former congressman for the west Texas city is best known for his 2018 Senate challenge to incumbent Republican US Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Rourke lost that election by less than three percentage points. As a result of that race, the now-49-year-old emerged as a high-profile candidate, giving some hope to Democrats they can win the governor’s race for the first time in 32 years.
Beto: Gaming, Marijuana Could Bring ‘Billions’ to Texas
When asked about ways he’d generate revenue for the state, O’Rourke told reporters he’d first look to expand Medicaid. He said that would bring in more federal dollars if the state broadened eligibility requirements for the insurance program. He said it would also free up more state dollars because the state would not have to cover hospitals that provide care for lower-income Texans.
He also said he would legalize marijuana, which would create a revenue stream from sales of the drug and also save the public money. The latter would happen by reducing the number of people in jail for possessing what’s now a legal recreational product in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. More states have also legalized marijuana for medicinal use.
O’Rourke turned to gaming, mentioning that Texans already gamble. They just happen to do it in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Texas’s neighboring states have at least casino gaming, with every state except Oklahoma allowing sports betting.
Funding from expanded gaming could also potentially help the state provide more funding for education. Previously, state and local governments equally split the costs of education. However, O’Rourke said that more of the burden has shifted to the local communities under Abbott. That’s also led to higher property taxes for homeowners, he said.
Interest from Operators Picks Up
Despite being the second-largest state in the country, with a population of 29.9 million, gaming opportunities in Texas are few and far between. There are a state lottery, four racetracks, and two Class II tribal casinos that offer slot-like e-bingo games.
Still, Texas has been on the radar of many gaming companies. That includes Las Vegas Sands (LVS). According to the Texas Ethics Commission data, it has created a general political action committee called Texas Sands. In February, Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder in LVS, contributed $2.3 million to the committee.
Sports betting operators have also started making moves. Last September, PointsBet became the first to officially ink a deal when it became the “exclusive and official sports betting partner” of MLS team Austin FC. Earlier this year, Fubo Gaming reached a deal with the Houston Dynamo, the largest ever in the soccer league, from a wagering company.
Even Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones believes sports betting will happen eventually in the state. He could also be involved in any casino developments in the state, as one of his companies received a gaming license in Arkansas last year.
However, Texas remains a hard state to crack for gaming expansion despite the interest. Like Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky, the southern state’s politics is heavily influenced by social conservatives, who say they have strong faith-based objections to gambling.