Golden Nuggets Casinos owner Tillman Fertitta recently joined The Michael Berry Show and shared insight into gambling in Texas. Most notable was a reference to the state potentially legalizing gambling in about eight years.
Fertitta, who also owns the Houston Rockets, has been a somewhat active advocate for legalized gambling in the state for years. He had his most significant impact on legislation two sessions ago when the economy was not nearly as strong as it is now.
“I’ve worked at it, but I haven’t worked that hard on it because I don’t believe in fighting battles you can’t win,” he said. “You weren’t going to have gambling in Texas six or eight years ago, even when we had a $15 billion deficit. There was a slight chance then.”
Texas’ economic success looks nothing like it did six to eight years ago. Since then, the state has boomed into one of the strongest economies in the world. That is not encouraging for legalizing gambling in 2023 and maybe even 2025. However, Fertitta does not believe all hope is lost.
“No, it’s definitely not,” Fertitta said in response to whether gambling is dead in Texas. “There is only a session every two years. It’s not going to happen this year (referring to 2023) or two years from now. If it happens four years from now, by the time you can get a commission set up, choose who is going to have the casinos, and then build one, the absolute soonest you can have true gaming in Texas is eight years from now. By which time, I will have a good chunk of my debt paid off and would be very comfortable with it. I’m not for doing it the cheap way.”
How do Residents Feel About Gambling?
Various polls and reports imply Texans enjoy gambling. Fertitta alluded to this in the conversation, revealing that he estimates a sizable percentage of the patrons of his casino in Lake Charles are from the Greater Houston area. This isn’t too surprising considering Texans spend $2.5 billion annually on gambling operations in other states.
“I would say it’s 85%,” Fertitta said in response to Berry’s question about Houstonians visiting his casino in Louisiana. “That’s an amazing number. You have to remember the Houston area has six million people, and you can day trip to Lake Charles. It’s just two hours away.”
Whether Fertitta’s prediction comes to fruition will be dependent on gambling lobbying efforts and voting trends in the state over the coming years. There are multiple politicians, business owners, and entrepreneurs interested in bringing gambling to the Lone Star State, so don’t expect this issue to go away quietly. There are already multiple bills in the works for the upcoming session, including one aimed at online sports betting.
Current Facts about Gambling in Texas
- Gambling is illegal in the Texas constitution
- Making it legal takes passing two bills
- Conservative leadership in the state is against gambling, and they gained more seats in the house and senate in the last election
- Multiple sports teams in Texas are beginning to push for legalized betting
- Majority of Texans are in favor of gambling
- Bingo halls, the state lottery, and Indian-owned casinos are the only current legal forms of gambling in Texas
- There are multiple bills planned for consideration in the 2023 Texas Legislative Sessions
AP Photo/Michael Wyke