Texas Sands PAC

Las Vegas Sands launches new $2M PAC to strengthen push for casino legalization in Texas

Reading time 2:12 min

Las Vegas Sands is launching a new political action committee to strengthen its push to legalize casinos in Texas, local media reports. The Texas Sands PAC has been credited with having already spent over half a million dollars across roughly three dozen primaries for the state House and Senate.

The PAC, formed in January, launched with over $2 million to spend, reports Texas Tribune. It filed its first report with the Texas Ethics Commission on Tuesday, revealing recipients, plus initial funding of $2.3 million from Miriam Adelson, Las Vegas Sands’ majority shareholder.

According to the gaming giant, the PAC is part of a “long-term commitment” to Texas. Initial recipients of the PAC’s contributions, over half a million a dollars, include over 30 incumbents from both parties facing primary competition, plus a handful of candidates for open seats.

"We appreciate the willingness of these legislators to engage in an open dialogue about the tremendous economic benefits, including the tens of thousands of jobs, these destination resorts will create for Texas," Matt Hirsch, a spokesperson for Sands' PAC, said in a statement retrieved by the cited source.

Hirsch further said the PAC will continue “to actively engage” local and state leaders over the course of the year and “be prepared” to come back next session ready to pass legislation that will ultimately allow voters to decide on casino gambling legalization in the Lone Star State.

Combined donations in each of the House races ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, with the largest sum going to high-priority incumbent House Speaker Dade Phelan and allies such as Republican Ryan Guillen. 

The PAC also gave Senate candidates sums between $4,000 to $30,000: among most-benefited candidates was Pete Flores, former Republican senator from Pleasanton. A total of $75,000 was given to Gov. Greg Abbott, who faces a group of vocal primary challengers.

The newly-launched PAC builds upon prior efforts from Sands to push for casino legalization in Texas, one of the states with the most restrictive gaming laws in the US. The gaming giant launched last year a massive campaign in the state's four largest metropolitan areas to build support for casinos, including TV and radio ads, to no avail.

The company sought to build support by leveraging the argument that billions of tourism and gambling dollars leave the state yearly for neighboring states that already allow casinos. Sands funded much of its campaign through the Texas Destination Resort Alliance.

The Sands-backed proposed gambling expansion attempted to let Texas voters decide if they wanted destination resorts to be built in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, although the legislation failed to become law: it only received a committee hearing in the House.

The legislation would have needed a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and then the support of a majority of voters in order to become law. Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, said there was no “political appetite” to pass the bill last session, as lawmakers learned that budget holes they hoped to fill with gambling revenues would be shallower than previously expected.

In addition to its major ad campaign, Sands is credited with having spent at least $3 million on 74 lobbyists to make their case last year. But legislation was hindered by factors including a late filing and a perceived opposition from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

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