HJR 155 is among the bills that received backing from 92 representatives on Wednesday, allowing for the establishment of multiple destination casinos. However, 51 House members were against it.
For the bill to proceed to the Senate, it needs a minimum of 100 positive votes (two-thirds of the House members) in its second vote, which is anticipated to take place on Thursday. Failure to secure the required 100 votes will result in the legislation not being advanced to the Senate.
Opposition from both parties
According to Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, the coalition of those who opposed the gambling bills on Wednesday included progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.
Jones mentioned that several Republicans who voted against the legislation did so due to concerns about the social ramifications of commercial casinos, such as increased risks of human trafficking, spousal abuse, personal bankruptcy, child abandonment, and job absenteeism.
Opponents also criticized Las Vegas Sands (LVS) for its extensive lobbying efforts in support of the bill and its ties to the Chinese government because of its casino operations in Macau.
On the other hand, Democrats who opposed the bill believed that it served the interests of large out-of-state corporations rather than average Texans. They also pointed out that the bill did not have any provisions for unionized labor and minority-owned businesses during and after the construction of the casinos.
Additionally, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas warned that its Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass would be adversely impacted by the presence of commercial casinos.
Representative Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, was one of the most vocal opponents of HJR 155 and predicted that the bill would not make any progress. He said, “This bill is not going anywhere. The Senate has not even given this a hearing. This is dead.”
Legislation for online sports betting
On Wednesday, the House granted preliminary approval for HJR 102, a bill that would legalize online sports betting in Texas. The vote was 97-to-44, but the legislation still requires a minimum of 100 “yes” votes during its second vote for it to progress to the Senate.
HJR 102 faced resistance from both parties, with seven Democrats and 37 Republicans voting against it in the House. Despite this, Representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano, a key supporter of the bill, is optimistic that it will receive three or more additional votes in favor during the second vote, thus surpassing the 100-vote threshold and advancing to the Senate.
However, Mark P. Jones believes that the legislation, like HJR 155, is unlikely to gain momentum in the Senate, saying, “This is another bill that is dead on arrival in the Senate.”
Opposition in the Senate is spearheaded by Patrick
The prospects for both bills passing in the Senate are bleak, as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick remains opposed to them. Mark P. Jones believes that even if the House were to pass the bills, they would fail in the Senate, saying, “Since the lieutenant governor has not said anything about changing his mind, regardless of what happens in the House, I believe casino gambling and online gambling are DOA in the Senate.”
Moreover, time is running out for the Senate to hold a possible vote, as the regular legislative session ends in less than three weeks, on May 29.
If both bills manage to secure the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate, they would be presented in a November 2023 statewide referendum, where Texans would cast their votes. Recent public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Texas voters would approve expanded gambling in the state.