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Does Mark Cuban deal with Las Vegas Sands mean gambling is coming to Texas? What we know

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Dallas Mavericks and casino giant Las Vegas Sands could soon be closely linked, raising the question: Is more gambling coming to Texas?

Owner Mark Cuban is selling a majority stake in the franchise to Sands’ owner Miriam Adelson and her family for $3.5 billion. Cuban would still control basketball operations. (The Adelson and Dumont families confirmed they were buying the franchise in a Wednesday statement.)

The sale hasn’t been finalized and must be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors. But if it were, Sands would be positioned to benefit if Texas were to legalize expanded gambling — a push that so far has had lackluster success in the state Legislature.

Bills to legalize a limited number of destination resort-style casinos and sports betting didn’t make it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk during this past legislative session, despite support and advocacy from big players like Las Vegas Sands and professional sports teams, including the Mavericks.

Sands has been a key proponent of resort-style casinos in Texas, enlisting lobbyists and spending big in their push. At the same time, Cuban has supported expanding gambling in Texas.

What happened this past legislative session?

There was a lot of buzz about sports betting and casino gambling heading into the Texas legislative session that started in January. But by the time it ended in Ma, the main two bills expanding gambling in state had failed.

Texas has limited gambling, namely the lottery and horse racing. Legalizing sports betting or commercial casino gambling would have to be approved by lawmakers in Austin and then put on a ballot for voters.

Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican, authored a bill to allow online sports betting. It cleared the House, but wasn’t heard in the Texas Senate, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said there wasn’t support.

The proposal was backed by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, a coalition that includes professional sports teams and sports betting platforms, including the Mavericks. In a statement near the end of the session, former Gov. Rick Perry, a spokesperson for the alliance, said they’d continue try and get online sports betting on the ballot in 2025 — the next time lawmakers convene for a regular legislative session.

Another bill would have allowed a limited number of commercial casinos in Texas that have amenities like hotels, restaurants, meeting spaces, entertainment venues and shopping centers.

The legislation, authored by Rep. Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican, passed an initial vote on the House floor but was effectively pulled down before moving to the Senate amid questions over whether it had the support to pass another vote that needed a higher threshold. An accompanying bill also passed in the House initially but was not sent to the Senate.

“I do know when it’s time to fold ‘em,” Geren said at the time.

Geren declined to comment, and a request for Leach to comment was not immediately returned Wednesday.


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What has Mark Cuban said about gambling in Texas?

Cuban has previously told the Star-Telegram he supports both sports betting and casino gaming in Texas and was optimistic about expanded gambling’s chances in Texas.

About two years ago, he said the Dallas Mavericks had been working with Las Vegas Sands to bring resort-based casino gaming to Texas. He didn’t elaborate on the details of how.

“I’m the biggest fan of resort based casino gaming in Texas,” Cuban said at the time.

He added that Texas lacks “world class vacation and business destinations.”

“I think resort casinos like we see in Vegas are examples of destinations that would make cities in Texas a place where vacationers from around the world want to go,” Cuban said. “Texas is so innovative and entrepreneurial, I think with resort casinos, we could easily become the number one global destination for conventions and vacations. Which in turn could generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the state.”

An email seeking comment from Cuban was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Another notable supporter of expanded gambling in Texas is Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta , who also owns Landry’s and Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos. His company Fertitta Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands and others with gaming interests made up the Texas Destination Resort Alliance, which advocated for commercial resort-style casinos.

Las Vegas Sands’ push for casinos

Las Vegas Sands has led the push for destination resort-style casinos in Texas, through dozens of registered lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions by its Texas Sands PAC. Adelson, who became Las Vegas Sands owner following the death of her husband Sheldon Adelson, is also a major Republican donor, including to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. She donated $1 million to Abbott’s campaign in September 2022.

A representative for the company told lawmakers during a committee hearing in March that Las Vegas Sands was negotiating to bring a destination resort-style casino to Texas , if allowed in the state.

Wednesday’s statement from the Adelson and Dumont families did not address how the sale could affect the gambling landscape in Texas. But Las Vegas Sands’ Senior Vice President of Governmental Relations Andy Abboud said in a May statement that their work to bring resort-style casinos to Texas “took an extraordinary step forward” during the legislative session.

Las Vegas Sands will continue to “press forward with our efforts in Texas,” Abboud said.

“We continue to strongly believe that Texans want to decide and vote on this issue, and we look forward to giving them that opportunity in the near future,” he said.

Unless brought up during a special session, the next time lawmakers could debate casino gambling or sports betting in Texas is 2025 when they convene in Austin. Lawmakers have been in a marathon of special sessions since May, but gambling hasn’t been a focus. Abbott calls special sessions and sets the agenda.

Rob Kohler, a consultant with the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist general convention of Texas who opposes expanded gambling in Texas, doesn’t expect Las Vegas Sands’ potential Mavericks purchase to change the odds for legal gambling in Texas. He likened the purchase to Fertitta owning the Rockets or the Chickashaw Nation, the owners of WinStar World Casino and Resort, owning a horse track in Grand Prairie through subsidiary companies.

“Sands has purchased a seat at the table if it ever goes,” Kholer said. “It doesn’t change the math for me, but for them I think it puts them in the position where they’ll no longer have to hire 100 lobbyists per session.”