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Gov. Abbott open to expanding gambling options in Texas, spokesperson says

Casino operators have donated nearly $2.5 million to Abbott's re-election campaign since 2021.

SAN ANTONIO — Gov. Greg Abbott would consider legislation allowing gambling operations in Texas, a spokesperson told KENS 5 Friday. 

“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming," said Renae Eze, Abbott's press secretary. 

"But, if there is a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Governor Abbott would take a look at it," she added. 

Texas's constitution outlaws gambling, though lawmakers have tried to circumvent the rule in recent years. Since the U.S. Supreme Court effectively authorized sports betting in 2018, state legislators have repeatedly tried to legalize the practice. 

But in 2021, bills that would've legalize sports betting in Texas did not clear a single legislative hurdle. Each died in committee. 

Texans are already betting on sports illegally. Bookie black-markets are thriving online. 

The United Nations estimates people illegally wager up to $1.7 trillion on sports, worldwide, each year.

"(Lawmakers worry) about people gambling away their family's income... that it creates organized crime," said UTSA political scientist Jon Taylor. "There's a host of worries that sort of come into play."

Abbott had previously expressed similar concerns. 

"This is throwing out a bone for politics with less than two weeks to go before the election," Taylor said of the governor's apparent openness to gambling legislation. 

Since 2021, casino operators have donated nearly $2.5 million to Abbott. Expanded gambling is a popular idea which might secure a vote on election day, too. 

Beto O'Rourke has offered full-throated support for gaming expansion. He argues the revenue generated at a casino could even help pay for a property tax cut. 

Even if Abbott explicitly expressed support for gambling, any expansion faces steep odds in the legislature. 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who can stall bills in the state capitol, adamantly opposes gaming expansion. 

"It will be difficult to get legislation out of the state senate and get some sort of compromise," Taylor said. "Is it possible? Sure. It's always possible." 

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