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Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Pushes For Casino Gambling In Texas

Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman And CEO Hires Eight Lobbyists To Sway Lawmakers In Upcoming Legislative Session

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Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson is pushing for the legalization of casino gambling in Texas, according to a report from a local NBC affiliate.

Adelson, who is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns the Venetian and Palazzo casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as several properties in the Asian markets, hired eight Austin lobbyists to sway lawmakers in that direction for the upcoming legislative.

Gambling in the Lone Star State currently operates in a legal grey area. Card rooms have sprung up all over the state but charge either a fee for the seat or membership, as opposed to dropping a rake, which is expressly forbidden under the law.

In May 2019, however, two Houston-area poker rooms were raided by local law enforcement. At the time of the raids, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who recently won another term, told media “poker rooms are illegal in Texas.”

No customers were charged with a crime, but owners of the clubs were charged with money laundering and engaging in organized crime. The charges were dismissed a few months later. Despite the grey area for poker, Las Vegas-style casinos and traditional casino gambling is clearly prohibited under the law.

Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. recently announced that it was actively shopping its two Las Vegas Strip properties. It was rumored that the company would use that capital to focus on a possible New York casino market, or concentrate efforts in Asia. Now, it seems like those funds could be funneled into a first-mover advantage in a burgeoning Texas market.

Texas is one of the most anti-gambling states in the country. Despite every state it shares a border with having casinos, many of which are located near that same border, every attempt at legalizing casino gambling by lawmakers has ultimately failed.

Rep. Joe Deshotel, a Democrat from Port Arthur, proposed a constitutional amendment to allow for casino gambling along the coastal area of the state during the last legislative session. It was unsuccessful.

Deshotel expressed similar sentiments as lawmakers from both parties in other states that have pushed for legalized gambling in markets where it was banned.

“The issue is trying to cut the money leaving Texas in such large amounts that could be going into the coffers here and helping Texans who need help,” Deshotel told the local NBC affiliate.

The majority of lawmakers in the state have been Republicans for quite some time, which have been steadfast against gambling expansion. But other Republican strongholds, such as Tennessee and Arkansas, have changed their tune on the issue as governments run low on funds and revenue streams to tax.

Adelson’s backing might further sway lawmakers, as he donated $4.5 million to Republican candidates in Texas during the last election cycle.

The 87-year-old is pushing for brick-and-mortar expansion but has been outspoken in his distaste for online gambling expansion over the last decade. In 2014, he funded the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a lobbying group that works to maintain the current ban on internet gambling in most states throughout the country.