The sale of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team could end the long stalemate over legalized sports betting in the state of Texas.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was always a big fan of expanding gambling in Texas, but he’s nothing compared to the new owner, Miriam Adelson. She is the widow of Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, and also the majority shareholder in that gambling empire.
The Adelsons have been trying to expand gambling in Texas since at least 2020, when they hired a dream team of lobbyists to pitch the case for casinos in the Lone Star State. Unfortunately for them, the matter remains very unpopular with Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott has repeatedly shot down any attempts to expand gambling across all venues, from Native tribal bingo halls to casinos to sports betting. The Adelson family’s crack team of lobbyists barely made a dent in either public opinion or lawmaker enthusiasm for the project. When Sheldon Adelson died in 2021, it looked like the gambling interests lost their biggest gun.
That may have changed with Miriam Adelson poised to control one of Texas’s major sports teams.
If any aspect is going to be expanded in Texas, it will probably be sports betting. Thirty states already allow sports betting, and Texas is by far the largest market still not participating. A couple of bills were put forth in the regular legislative session earlier this year, but they went nowhere as both chambers became consumed with fights over property taxes, school vouchers, and the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Despite the legality of sports betting and the controls used by companies like DraftKings to prevent Texans from breaking the law, a lot of money already moves around professional sports. In 2021, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) claimed that billions of dollars were flowing out of Texas illegally because of the ban on sports bets.
Experts concur that a lot of money is being bet, illegally or not.
“I have to believe that the political leadership has got to be a little tired of looking at all the tail lights leaving Texas,” Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at the University of Las Vegas International Gaming Institute, told The Dallas Morning News. “There’s a lot of money leaving the state. And at some point, I think they’re going to realize if they don’t get in the game, Texas is just going to be exporting money to other states.”
There are even signs that Abbott’s consistent hatred of gambling may be softening. In an interview he gave in February, the governor said that sports betting was just another form of entertainment, though he was adamant that there be very strict rules in place about how it would be conducted.
“We can’t have a system also that takes money out of the hands of people who need to be able to pay their bills and buy their food and have them lose out on gambling, where they then need to depend upon the state,” he told The Caller Times.
Regardless, having a casino mogul controlling the Mavericks can’t be anything but good for gambling prospects.