Texas Survey Shows Overwhelming Support for Casinos, Expanded Gambling in the State

Three quarters of a sample of Texas residents surveyed this month back a proposed bill that would set up limited gaming properties in the state.

The Texas state capitol building in Austin
The Texas state capitol building in Austin
The Texas state capitol building in Austin, pictured above. Voter support for expanded gambling is evident in a recent survey. The first step in the enactment process requires support from state legislators. (Image: Wikipedia)

The strong support was found in a survey released on Thursday by the University of Houston.

The survey reveals 75% of Texans taking part in the survey support the passage of the legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 17, including 41% who strongly support its passage. On the other hand, 25% of Texans questioned oppose it, including 13% who strongly oppose its passage.

The support was seen by voters in both parties and by religious conservatives.

Sports betting and other expanded gambling would follow too from the bill. It was introduced by state Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston.

Under the legislation, the Dallas-Fort Worth region, as well as Houston, San Antonio, and Austin would each become a site for a destination casino.

Also, the bill allows limited casino gambling at each of the racinos now located in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio

The legislation also allows for limited casino gambling at each greyhound racetrack now in Corpus Christi and in Harlingen (Rio Grande Valley).

Other expanded gambling options would be seen at tribal casinos at the Alabama-Coushatta in East Texas, the Kickapoo in Eagle Pass, and the Tigua in El Paso.

Bipartisan Support

The University of Houston survey says 80% of Texas Democrats and 72% of Texas Republicans surveyed support the bill.

Also, 69% of Texas born-again Christians taking part in the survey support its passage. And 61% of Texas Evangelical Protestants questioned support the passage of the legislation.

In the past, religious conservatives were among the groups most opposed to the passage of casino legislation.

The survey also shows that 69% of Texans questioned support separate legislation that would only legalize online and in-person sports betting, including 31% who strongly support it.

The survey was conducted earlier this month. Some 1,200 Texans took part.

To be enacted, the legislature needs to approve a bill. Then, it would head to the state’s voters for a referendum.

Under the current bill, tax revenue raised from the casinos and gambling would provide tax relief and funds for education and public safety.

In recent months, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, both Republicans, are somewhat supportive of seeing four destination casinos and eight smaller casinos spread across the state.

But even with this growth in support, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, another Republican, needs to back the bill, to see its passage in the state senate, according to Mark P. Jones, a co-author of the new survey. Patrick is seen as a powerful leader of the Republicans in the senate, Jones added.

Jones is a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and a senior research fellow at the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.

Outlook for the Bill

In his latest public comments, Patrick has yet to signal support for expanded gambling.

While Patrick may still oppose casino gambling, there is a reasonable possibility that he will acquiesce given the combination of Abbott and Phelan’s support combined with the aggressive lobbying of casino gambling advocates such as the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and a host of prominent and influential Texans,” Jones told Casino.org.

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