Texas Region Could Benefit from Casinos

The Texas legislature is considering multiple bills pertaining to casino gaming and sports wagering, and while it remains to be seen if any will pass, some economists are already speculating on the potential benefits and drawbacks of gaming expansion in the state.

Texas casino
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick shown above. Patrick continues to oppose efforts to legalize commercial casinos in Texas. (Image: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Under some of the proposals, Texas could open what is essentially a dormant casino market to allow for one gaming venue in or around each of the state’s major cities, including Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Austin, the state’s capital, is part of central Texas, a region that could benefit from more tourism. However, there are stipulations, according to Texas A&M Central Texas professor Dr. Rob Tennant.

If a casino comes to an area that doesn’t have them and there aren’t casinos in, like, adjoining counties, the realization is more substantial, and, in more rural situations, what it does is it tends to create a significant number of new jobs,” he said in an interview with KWTX. “It tends to increase salaries, wages in those communities, and it can bring people in from the surrounding communities to those venues.”

Translation: one casino could deliver economic benefits to Central Texas, but if the region is eventually home to multiple gaming venues, cannibalization could occur, diminishing the properties’ economic perks.

Central Texas Sensible Casino Destination

Fifteen counties comprise Central Texas, though there is some debate as to whether another 26 are part of the region as well.

Even when capping the area at 15 counties, it’s a desirable destination for a gaming venue because it’s not only home to booming Austin, but also the largest Army base in the US and at least three major universities, including Baylor, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas-Austin.

Specific to Central Texas, assuming a casino-hotel one day calls that area home, the most credible location is San Antonio. Located just 80 miles from Austin, San Antonio is also one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas. It’s also one of the state’s top tourist destinations, a staple on the US conventions and meetings scene, and home to a professional sports team, which is something Austin lacks.

Add up those factors and it’s not surprising that some operators are eyeing San Antonio as a possible destination for a new gaming venue. Regardless of where a Texas casino is located, assuming that even happens, the possibility of cannibalizing the state’s currently limited gaming menu exists.

“If they get casinos, it’s likely to cannibalize the business, meaning that if they used to gamble on horses, dogs, or lotteries and they now have casinos, it’s more going to be a shift in gambling dollars versus a creation of new gambling dollars,” Tennant told KWTX. “That’s frequently the case, so it’s not quite as clear.”

Texas Sports Betting Update

Some of the bills before the legislature address casino gaming and sports betting while there is a standalone proposal for the latter. Owners of pro sports teams in the state continue voicing their support for regulated sports wagering.

By Texas not having legalized sports betting it disadvantages our fans compared to sports fans in other states that are protected by regulation and given the freedom of opportunity to legally bet,” a group of owners wrote in a Tuesday letter to House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans.

Patrick’s long-running opposition to gaming expansion, including sports betting, is viewed as the primary stumbling block to related bills passing in the current legislative session, which ends in late May. As a result, industry observers are pointing to 2025 as the best-case scenario for sports betting to be legalized in Texas.

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