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A recent poll shows Texans support sports betting and casino gaming legislation ahead of the proponent’s latest legalization effort to amend the state’s long-standing prohibitions.

Three out of four Texan adults support a bill that would allow voters to approve casinos in the state’s major metro areas, according to a recent University of Houston survey. The survey found 41% of adults “strongly” support a joint resolution that would allow these gaming forms while only 13% “strongly oppose” the proposal.

The survey also found that 69% of respondents support stand-alone legislation that would permit statewide mobile wagering and in-person sportsbooks.

“Texas has historically had strict laws regulating most forms of gaming, even as neighboring states have expanded opportunities for casino gambling,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, in a statement announcing the results. “Opponents have historically had powerful allies in the Legislature, but we found the public appears ready to back major changes in how Texas regulates gambling.”

More survey details

The survey found wide support among all demographics.

Legal casino gaming expansion had 83% support from Black respondents, 77% from Latinos and 73% from white Texans. Men were slightly more supportive than women, at 78% support to 72%.

Democrats were more likely to support the proposal than Republicans, with 80% support to 72%. Three out of four Texans in ubran areas support gaming expansion, roughly the same backing as from rural residents (74%).

Younger residents were more supportive than older Texans, mirroring national trends. The survey found that even 69% of self-described born-again Christians, which pollsters noted have long been one of the groups most opposed to gambling expansion, would support a legalization measure on the ballot.

“We often talk about the issues that divide us as Texans, but proposals to expand legalized gambling in the state appear to be an example of the opposite,” Cross said in a statement. “This shows us that there is room for common ground.”

Gaming lobbyist activity ramps up

The survey comes as many US gaming industry leaders are investing heavily in casino and sports betting legalization efforts.

Las Vegas Sands, which spent millions on lobbying efforts in the 2021 Texas legislative session, has hired 69 lobbyists for the 2023 session, according to the Texas Tribune. Sands majority shareholder Miriam Adelson spent $1m alone on Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s 2022 re-election campaign.

Sands sold its two major US properties, the Venetian and Pallazo on the Las Vegas Strip, in 2021 to focus on Asian markets, but remains interested in “destination” resort casinos in certain US metro areas. The company is also bidding for a casino gaming license in New York.

If voters approve casino gaming, Sands would be among the likeliest candidates to earn a license. Current proposals call for full-scale “Las Vegas-style” casinos in or around the state’s largest metro areas: Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

A separate effort to pass stand-alone online sports betting legislation is being led by a coalition of professional sports teams, including the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta owns Golden Nugget casino properties in multiple states.

The group, the Sports Betting Alliance, has hired former Texas governor and federal secretary of energy Rick Perry as a spokesperson.

Despite the high-profile supporters, passing any gaming legislation is no sure bet. Many of the religious and anti-gambling groups that have opposed such efforts for decades remain influential in the state legislature.

Critically, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has remained publicly opposed to any such expansion. In his role as lieutenant governor, Patrick oversees the state Senate and can, effectively, prevent any legislation from reaching the floor for a vote.

The Texas Legislature only meets for regular sessions in odd-numbered years. Any gambling legalization effort passed in 2023 would mean an ensuing voter-backed constitutional amendment would not come until the 2024 ballot, preventing any new casinos or sportsbooks from being approved until 2025 at the earliest.

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