Casino exec calls Texas the 'biggest plum' for expanding gaming

Tuesday 8th December 2020

One of the biggest gaming companies in America is making clear it wants to open casinos in Texas if the Legislature agrees to allow them.

"Texas is considered the biggest plum still waiting to be out there in the history of hospitality and gaming," said Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government relations for the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Abboud said on Tuesday his company sees few places in the world as having a bigger potential for gaming. He said Texas is in a class with Japan, Singapore and Brazil as the best potential markets.

"We view Texas as a worldwide destination and one of the top potential markets in the entire world," Abboud said during a conference organized by Austin-based Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.

His comments come about a month before the Texas Legislature is set to kick off the 2021 session with increasing pressure to seek new revenues to bolster the state as it struggles to deal with crashing oil prices and the impact of the pandemic. Some lawmakers have already suggested the Legislature legalize marijuana or allow major casino gambling to boost the economy.

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Some lawmakers have warned that Texas is losing billions of dollars annually to neighboring states that allow full-scale gambling. Louisiana has both tribal and commercial casinos. Both Oklahoma and New Mexico have Native American gaming operations.

Texas has one Native American casino in Eagle Pass operated by the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. The state also allows horseracing and dog tracks.

Any effort to expand gaming would likely face opposition from conservative leaders. Over the last three legislative sessions, bills to allow casino gaming have not gone far. In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott declared he "wholeheartedly" supported the existing prohibitions on gaming in Texas. Any gaming bill in the Legislature would need Abbott's support in order for it to become law.

Abbott has also weighed in against the federal government's attempts to allow expanded Native American gaming in Texas.

Still, that past opposition didn't stop Abboud from talking about how a destination resort casino near Houston and Galveston could have the tourism infrastructure in place to make gaming work.

"We need existing tourism infrastructure to blend in and to create a symbiotic relationship between what we built and what is already there," he said.

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