Beto for Betting? Texas Candidate for Governor Open to Expanded Gaming


Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke told reporters in a Dallas suburb Wednesday that he would consider backing efforts to expand gaming in the Lone Star State. That would include legalizing both casinos and sports betting.

Beto O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks to reporters Wednesday in a Dallas suburb regarding the impact property taxes have on residents. One way he said he’d consider generating more revenue for the state is through expanded gaming. (Image:

O’Rourke made his comments during a press conference where he attacked Gov. Greg Abbott over policies that the challenger claimed have caused property taxes and other costs to rise exponentially across the state.

“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 of the Republican incumbent and his opponent in the November general election.

O’Rourke, an El Paso native and former congressman for the west Texas city, is best known for his 2018 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 in 32 years.

Beto: Gaming 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, which he said would bring in more federal dollars if the state broadened eligibility requirements for the insurance program. It also would free up more state dollars, he said, 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 by reducing the number of people put 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.

Then, 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. All of Texas’ neighboring states have at least casino gaming, with every state except Oklahoma allowing sports betting.

Those revenues go to other states and to other state governments,” he said. “We would be able to bring in billions of dollars more. And from listening to Texans across the state, one, it’s a very popular proposal, and two, I think it would also help us to address some of the challenges that we have in reducing inflation and property taxes in the state of Texas. So, I think that warrants a very close look, and it’s something that I’m inclined to support.”

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 under Abbott, more of the burden has shifted to the local communities. 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 is a state lottery and four racetracks as well as 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 data from the Texas Ethics Commission, it has created a general political action committee called Texas Sands. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder in LVS, contributed $2.3 million to the committee in February.

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 that’s 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, despite the interest, Texas remains a hard state to crack for gaming expansion. Much 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.

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