Sale Of Dallas Mavericks Not Expected To Lessen Opposition To Texas Casinos

December 5, 2023
Mark Cuban’s decision to sell a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks to Miriam Adelson, the largest shareholder in Las Vegas Sands, is not expected to materially strengthen the hand of supporters of legalizing casinos and sports betting in Texas.

Mark Cuban’s decision to sell a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks to Miriam Adelson, the largest shareholder in Las Vegas Sands, is not expected to materially strengthen the hand of supporters of legalizing casinos and sports betting in Texas.

“It’s hard to say if this moves the needle,” said John Holden, associate professor at the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University. “This might add some additional weight to a push for legalization, but I don’t see it as a dramatic shift.”

Cuban, who has been an outspoken supporter of legalizing sports betting, floated the idea last year of partnering with Las Vegas Sands to build an integrated resort in Dallas that included a sports arena.

Adelson, 78, who is the controlling shareholder in Las Vegas Sands, sold $2bn in company stock to help cover the reported $3.5bn cost to acquire a majority ownership stake in the Mavericks, potentially creating a partnership with the Las Vegas-based gaming company.

In the deal, Cuban will retain control of basketball operations. The parties hope to receive approval from the National Basketball Association (NBA) board of governors and finalize the deal by the end of 2023.

Adelson would join Tilman Fertitta, CEO and chairman of Fertitta Entertainment, who owns the NBA’s Houston Rockets and the Golden Nugget casino brand, as professional franchise owners in Texas with ties to the U.S. gambling industry. Jerry Jones, owner of the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys, has also spoken out in favor of legalizing sports betting.

“Between Cuban, Jones, Fertitta and now Adelson as team owners, you already have large personalities in Texas that are supportive of both sports betting and gaming,” Brendan Bussmann, managing partner with B Global Advisors, told Vixio GamblingCompliance.

“Add in two tracks that have Chickasaw Nation and Penn National as [owners as] additional stakeholders,” Bussmann said. “Its time for the legislature to listen to their constituents and bring both of these forms of entertainment to Texas.”

Mike Lavigne, a legislative consultant for the gaming industry in Texas, said one of the “hindering factors” for gambling expansion is that Texas generally does not “like people coming in from the outside and telling us what it is going to look like.”

“We like our local billionaires better than out-of-state billionaires. What you are going to see this time is more billionaires from in-state,” Lavigne told Vixio on Friday (December 1).

In an interview with CBS News in Austin on Friday, Republican Lieutenant Governor and Senate President Dan Patrick said he liked Adelson and had met her a number of times but did not believe that buying a majority stake in the Mavericks would have any impact on the issue of casino expansion.

“They are two totally separate issues,” Patrick said. “Look, the people who want to build casinos in Texas have simply not been able to wrangle the votes from members [of the state legislature]. That’s how a bill is passed. It’s not up to the governor. It’s not up to the [House] Speaker and it’s not up to me.”

Patrick reminded supporters of legalizing casinos that Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s comments last year that he would take a look at a bill if approved, were “not exactly a ringing endorsement.”

In May, Republican state lawmaker John Kuempel, the sponsor of legislation to authorize up to eight destination-resort casinos, asked his fellow members of the state’s House of Representatives to postpone any further consideration of his bill, ending any potential vote on his bill in the last session.

The House tentatively approved Kuempel’s casino bill by a 63-49 tally, but state law requires a two-thirds majority of 100 votes to put an accompanying constitutional resolution on the election ballot as a referendum for Texas voters.

Overshadowing the vote on Kuempel’s bill was the 101-42 vote in the House to legalize online sports betting in Texas. However, House Joint Resolution 102 failed to garner enough support in the Senate.

“While I know everyone would like to view this in the collective, I still see sports betting and gaming as two separate issues just as we saw in the last session,” Bussmann said. “Las Vegas Sands continues to be focused on bringing destination resorts to Texas and moved it further than it had been in the session earlier this year.”

Bussmann said how this translates into the next legislative session in 2025 is going to be dependent on how the legislature looks after next year’s elections.

Lavigne agreed, but said gambling expansion is unlikely to get any easier amid a current political fight in Austin  over school vouchers. The House plans to wrap up its fourth special session on Tuesday (December 5), unable to approve bills to create a new school voucher system and other issues that Patrick, the Senate leader, is lobbying to pass. 

Abbott has said he intends to primary all lawmakers who he feels are standing in his way to get his priorities through the legislature. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is also seeking to push out Republican state representatives who voted to impeach him earlier this year.

Paxton was acquitted in the Senate. Since his acquittal, Paxton has announced his endorsement of about a dozen candidates to offer primary challenges to House Republicans who voted for his impeachment.

“There is no incentive to get this done,” Lavigne said of gaming. “There is lots of money in reserve. Oil and gas have done really well. It’s not like we need the money.”

Lawmakers in June approved a $321.3bn spending plan for the next two years, including a historic $32.7bn surplus.

“This ultimately comes down to the voters that elected these legislators,” Bussmann said.

“Whether you are for or against gaming, it’s far past the time to let them have their say. No one has ever lost on the ballot because they let the voters decide on gaming and Texans deserve that option.”

In the end, Bussmann said Las Vegas Sands has been “a staunch supporter of gaming in Texas and is going to keep pushing forward on the issue until Texans get a chance to vote on it.”

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