Does Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan support legal gambling?:


Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, strikes his gavel as he opens the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Thursday said he thinks voters would back proposals to expand legal gambling, be it sports betting or in casinos, expressing openness to the idea.

Lawmakers convened Texas’ legislative session on Tuesday. Advocates in recent years have pushed to bring destination-style resort casinos and sports betting to the state. Bills outlining the expansions would have to pass out of the House and Senate before going on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, lives near the border of Texas and Louisiana, where sports betting and casino gambling are legal: “It’s literally a stone’s throw from my district,” he said.

“I do have constituents who are in full favor of this,” Phelan said in a Thursday interview with reporters.

But if expanded gambling comes to Texas, Phelan said he doesn’t want to see slot machines in every convenience store.

“I want to see destination style casinos that are of high quality and that create jobs and that improve the lifestyle in those communities,” Phelan said. “That have hotels and concert venues, golf course — that are major economic drivers,” Phelan said.

To him, legalizing gambling isn’t about the revenue.

“We’re not talking a lot of revenue in the grand scheme of things when it comes to expanded gaming,” Phelan said. “This is about what the voters want.”

The average voter would support legal casino gambling and sports betting, Phelan said.

“I’ve seen the polling, and I think that the average voter … would approve that in this day and age,” Phelan said. “And that has changed over the last 20 years, I’ll be honest with you, it has changed. It would require a constitutional amendment, specifically for casino gaming, and so if a member is personally opposed to it, they could obviously allow their constituents to decide ultimately whether or not that’s the right thing.”

Gov. Greg Abbott previously said he’s open to a “professional entertainment option”

“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming,” Abbott said in response to a Star-Telegram candidate questionnaire. “But if there is a way to create a professional entertainment option for Texans, I’d take a look at it in the coming legislative sessions.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in an interview with KXAN TV in Austin that he has not seen movement on gambling expansion.

“I haven’t had anyone mention it to me, that they’re interested in doing anything,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that in a session things don’t change, but I don’t see any movement on that right now. Lot of talk out there. But I don’t see any movement on it.”

Sen. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, has filed a proposal to allow voters to decide whether or not to bring destination resort-style casino gambling and sports betting to Texas.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker supports bringing the question of legal casino gambling and sports betting to voters.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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