Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Gives Non-Answer To Gambling Expansion Question

Written By Derek Helling on January 6, 2023
lieutenant governor dan patrick sports betting

One of the rock band Foreigner’s biggest hits was “Say You Will.” When it comes to the subject of supporting legislation to expand gambling in Texas, residents are still waiting for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to say he will.

Patrick spoke on the exact subject recently but without actually saying much. His comments could be read as classic non-committal in any direction pending future events. But the situation is a tad more complicated.

Dan Patrick chimes in on Texas gambling expansion

As the lieutenant governor in Texas, Patrick is not only next-in-line to become the state’s chief executive but also presides over the state’s Senate. In that role, he holds a lot of power over what legislation sees the light of day in Austin.

That’s why his opinion carries weight on a smattering of issues, gaming included. Ryan Chandler of KXAN shared comments from Patrick on the subject of legislation to add new forms of gaming in Texas.

“I haven’t had anyone mention it to me, that they are interested in doing anything. A lot of talk out there, but I don’t see any movement on it.”

On its face, that suggests Patrick is insulated from what’s going on around him. However, just a cursory look at the situation reveals that is probably not the case.

Drafting and lobbying for gambling happen in Austin

Despite Patrick’s denial of awareness of anything going on, there is and has been a flurry of activity regarding gambling in the state capital. Some of that activity directly benefitted Patrick’s bid to keep his current post, too.

Texas Sen. Carol Alvarado pre-filed a constitutional amendment proposal before the current legislative session began. Her amendment would legalize brick-and-mortar commercial casinos in Texas. But only if it secures a majority of the popular vote in the state.

Not only is there currently gaming legislation in the Texas Senate but other proposals, including ones to legalize Texas sports betting, seem inevitable. Additionally, the notion that Patrick is altogether divorced and oblivious to the lobbying happening in Austin on the behalf of the gambling industry seems far-fetched.

Among the biggest donors to Patrick’s re-election campaign in 2022 was Tillman Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget chain of casinos. Furthermore, his campaign also received thousands from a political action committee organized by the Sands Corp.

That’s just part of the lobbying that has been and is still occurring in Texas regarding gaming expansion. Perhaps conveniently, another way to read Patrick’s comments suggests those donations and lobbyists might be paying off.

There is much hope for more legal gambling in Texas

In 2021, there were multiple proposals to expand gambling in Texas. Patrick effectively harried them all to their dooms when he stated that he would not let gaming expansion legislation see a vote on the Senate floor.

While Patrick’s comments to KXAN fall far short of enthusiastic support, they don’t exude defiance, either. Hearkening back to the Foreigner song, Patrick did not say if he will or if he won’t. That means potential for him to move on the subject.

If Patrick had stuck to his 2021 line, then there wouldn’t have been much hope for 2023’s short legislative session. With a non-committal, there’s still time for lobbyists and other proponents to ask him to be theirs tonight.

Photo by AP Photo/Nick Wagner
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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