Texas takes first steps towards potentially legalising casinos


One Texas lawmaker is getting a head start on the efforts to expand gambling in the state in 2023, with Texas State Senator Carol Alvarado pre-filing a joint resolution to bring sweeping expansion.

If successful, this would greenlight resort casinos, tribal casinos, expanded gaming at horse racing tracks and greyhound racing tracks, and sports betting. However, it is a long road to success.

Alvarado’s motion was one of hundreds pre-filed in advance of the start of the 2023 legislative session in the state on January 11. Texas is unique in that the legislature only meets in odd-numbered years, so there is less time and more competition for lawmakers’ attention.

Even if the measure can get out of committee and onto the floor for a vote, it faces more stringent standards than a normal bill. Any change to gambling laws in the state requires a constitutional amendment, which has to be done via a ballot measure. Because Alvarado’s joint resolution would end up on the 2023 election ballot, it has to pass both the Senate and the House with a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority.

Should both chambers approve the joint resolution, it would then be put to the residents of Texas, who would vote on it in November of next year. In other words, this is the very first, small step in what would be a very long road to legal casinos.

The proposed expansion includes a wide range of gambling facilities. It allows for up to four casino resorts in either the Dallas-Fort Worth or Houston metropolitan areas. Additionally, it would allow horse racing and greyhound racing tracks in the state to potentially offer casino gaming at their facilities. There would also be opportunity for federally recognised Texas tribes to offer tribal gaming.

Sports betting is mentioned in the measure, but only in passing as something that the newly created Texas Gaming Commission would have the ability to authorise.

Texas is a state with some of the most limited gambling options in the country. Residents have to travel to Louisiana or Oklahoma for the nearest casinos.

On the campaign trail last month, the newly re-eleceted Governor Greg Abbott indicated that he was open to expanding gambling in the state.