Texas is one of a handful of states in the US that has continued to shy away from casino gambling, with a long-standing ban on such activities in place. Now it seems one Representative of the state would like to see Texas enter the industry with the introduction of HB 2741.
The new bill was filed last week by Representative Joe Deshotel and would give a maximum of nine casino gaming licenses with an 18% tax rate set for gross gaming revenues. A voter referendum would be required as the state constitution would have to be changed to allow commercial casino gambling.
According to the language of the measure, the licenses would have to be distributed a certain way. Galveston, Jefferson, and Nueces counties would each receive one license. Harris and Bexar counties would receive three licenses each, with each of those licenses going to an existing pari-mutuel racing operator.
It will most likely be difficult for 2017 Texas HB 2741 to move forward as Texas tends to stick by an anti-gambling stance. In the past, tribal groups tried to offer gaming only to be shut down by the government. In 2002, the Alabama-Coushattas and Tigua Indians were offering gambling operations in the state but were shut down after a federal court sided with the state.
Until 2016, the state had just one gaming venue, the Lucky Eagle Casino, a casino operated by the federally recognized Kickapoo tribe. Last year, the Alabama-Coushatta tribe decided to reopen their bingo hall in East Texas after both the National Indian Gaming Commission and the federal government ruled in favor of the tribe and they would be allowed to conduct Class II gaming on tribal lands.
Once the Naskila Entertainment Center was reopened, the state filed papers to try and shut down the gaming venue and the legal fight is ongoing. The state argues that the electronic bingo games on offer should be considered as Class III gaming, just like Las Vegas slots and operating such machines would require a gaming compact between the tribe and the state. The legal battle continues as both the state and the tribe have filed federal court briefs last month.