With the 87th session of the Texas Legislature rapidly approaching in January, multiple reports have taken note of a new player looking to roll the dice on influencing Texas politics – the casino industry.
According to our data, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson took his place as a top ten donor in Texas state political contributions with a $2.5 million donation to a PAC that worked to retain a GOP majority in the Texas Legislature this election cycle. Dr. Miriam Adelson, his wife, also donated $2 million to the same PAC.
Mr. Adelson, a Las Vegas casino tycoon, serves as the chairman, CEO, and majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which oversees a number of hotel and casino operations, including the Venetian Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, and even the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
The Adelsons’ combined $4.5 million in political contributions were all to the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Texas PAC. A national organization with PACs in multiple states, the RSLC aims to retain Republican majorities in state legislatures with the upcoming redistricting process in mind.
Karl Rove, a former advisor to President George W. Bush serves as a primary strategist for the PAC, and its board of directors also includes former Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus.
Worth mentioning, Straus’s family has reportedly owned interests in horse racing tracks, which is one of the only forms of legal betting in the state.
While the Adelsons are major Republican donors to political causes across the country, their recent buy-in with the Republican leadership in the Texas legislature is emphasized by accompanying employment of lobbyists by the gambling industry for the upcoming legislative session.
According to data on the Texas Ethics Commission’s lobbyist registration portal, Las Vegas Sands Corporation listed Gavin Massingill as their new Texas lobbyist – just days after the November General Election saw Republicans retain control of the legislature.
Massingill will be leaving his most recent post serving as the Chief of Staff for outgoing Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen to now lobby the legislature on behalf of a major gambling interest.
With the state budget projections from the Texas Comptroller showing potentially billions in revenue shortfalls, lawmakers may feel pressure to choose this session between cutting spending, raising existing taxes, or finding a new potential source of revenue – with the Vegas casinos going all in with their bid to be that new source.
Follow along with Transparency USA for the latest news about the money in state politics. As the money aimed toward Austin turns from campaign finance to lobbying those elected to office, we’ll keep you informed.