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New legislation seeks to change Texas Constitution, legalize casino gambling, sports betting

New poll shows Texans are supportive of gambling in the state
New poll shows Texans are supportive of gambling in the state 02:11

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas could ultimately be home to seven casino destination resorts, including two in the Dallas-Fort Worth area under new legislation filed by State Representative Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.

He filed HJR 97, which lays out a framework that would lead to a change to the Texas Constitution.

Geren said, "I think it's something we need. We're losing billions of dollars to Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada."

His joint resolution would also allow for two casino resorts in the Houston area and one such resort in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and McAllen.

Geren said, "Not just casinos, but fabulous hotels, restaurants, showrooms, and retail. All of that creates jobs but it generates a lot of money for the state."

TX Rep. Charlie Geren explains his support for legalizing casino gambling, sports betting 09:24

He said his legislation would not allow slot machines in convenience stores or elsewhere.

A bill that would specify how this would work will soon be filed. 

The Sands Corporation, which operates casinos in Las Vegas and around the world, has advocated this in past years and recently placed a digital ad during an NFL playoff game that pushes for the idea again.

The company formed the Texas Destination Resort Alliance.

A spokesman, Matt Hirsch said in a statement, "These destination resorts will bring massive economic benefits to the state, including tens of thousands of jobs. We look forward to working alongside the Texas legislature and ultimately gaining the support of Texans to make destination resorts a reality."

The Chickasaw Nation, which operates the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma and owns Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, where there's live horse-racing, said it also supports casino resorts in Texas. 

John Wittman, a spokesman said, "Given our commitment to Texas, we look forward to engaging with their Legislature about the economic benefits and tens of thousands of jobs destination resorts will bring to the Lone Star State."

Geren said under his resolution, Lone Star Park would be able to compete to build one of the resorts in the DFW area. "I do beliee there is more support for this."

Opponents include State Representative Matt Shaheen, R-Plano. "If you look at other states that have legalized or expanded gambling, they were promised all these wonderful things about additional revenues and additional economic impact. But nobody talks about the increased homelessness, domestic abuse, those types of issues that come with legalized gambling and those are the concerns I have."

TX Rep. Matt Shaheen on his opposition to legalizing gambling in Texas 07:02

Geren's legislation would also allow legalized sports betting.

There are also separate bills that would only allow sports betting, which are supported by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance.

Former Governor Rick Perry is a spokesman for this alliance and supports legislation filed by Texas Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham and Representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano. 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones released a statement as part of the Texas Sports Betting Alliance. "It will give Texans the ability to decide for themselves if they want this activity safely regulated or continue to be conducted in the shadows by out of state betting platforms."

To make this a reality in Texas, the state constitution would have to be changed.

We reached out to the offices for Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont seeking comment about this issue.

We did not hear back from Abbott and Patrick's offices, and a spokeswoman for Phelan said he declined comment at this time.

To do that, two-thirds of the House (100 of 150 Representatives) and Senate (21 of 31 Senators) would have to approve legislation, and then voters would have to give their ok in an election this November.

Ethan Watts, a Dallas resident said he supports legalizing gambling and sports betting. "I'm 100% in favor of that. I think it would be good on all fronts, just create more taxable income for Texas obviously on that front and also just on the ability of the people to do as they please with their money."

Another Dallas resident, Kealon Clayborne said he opposes the effort. "I'm not into that, gambling with people's lives. Some people can get stressed out on that, lose their homes."

Geren said he hopes lawmakers will allow voters to weigh-in on this issue. "I'd still like to see it go in front of the people of Texas and they either vote it up or vote it down. If they vote it down, we're done with this. If they vote it up, then we'll move forward."

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