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Las Vegas Sands is doubling down on its commitment to bringing casinos to Texas with a new political action committee that is starting out with over $2 million to spend.
The group, Texas Sands PAC, formed in January and has already spent over half a million dollars across roughly three dozen races March 1, mostly to help incumbents facing primary competition. The PAC filed its first report Tuesday with the Texas Ethics Commission, revealing the recipients — and initial funding of $2.3 million from Miriam Adelson, Las Vegas Sands' majority shareholder. She is the widow of Sheldon Adelson, a GOP megadonor and former CEO of the Sands.
The company made a high-profile push last year to legalize casino gambling in Texas, though its legislation to let voters decide on the issue did not get far at the Capitol, only receiving a committee hearing in the House. Still, the gaming empire has insisted it is not giving up and says the PAC is part of a "long-term commitment to Texas."
"We appreciate the willingness of these legislators to engage in an open dialogue about the tremendous economic benefits, including the tens of thousands of jobs, these destination resorts will create for Texas," Matt Hirsch, a spokesperson for Sands PAC, said in a statement. "We will continue to actively engage local and state leaders over the course of this year and be prepared to come back next session ready to pass legislation that will ultimately allow voters to decide on this issue."
The initial recipients of the PAC's largesse include over 30 incumbents from both parties in the House and Senate, as well as a handful of candidates for open seats. The combined donations in each of the House races ranged from $3,000 to $25,000. The larger sum went to some incumbents who are a high priority for House Speaker Dade Phelan and his allies, like Republican Ryan Guillen, the party-switching representative from South Texas.
The PAC gave Senate candidates $4,000 or $30,000, with the larger amount going to candidates like Pete Flores, the former Republican senator from Pleasanton who is vying to return to the chamber. Flores' primary is a top priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has been the most resistant to the Las Vegas Sands effort in Texas among the state's top three leaders.
The PAC also gave $75,000 to Gov. Greg Abbott, who faces a group of vocal primary challengers.
Texas has some of the most restrictive gaming laws in the country, but last year, Las Vegas Sands made the most serious effort yet to open the door to casinos in the state. The centerpiece of its proposal was to ask voters if they wanted to build “destination resorts” with casino gambling in the state’s four biggest metropolitan areas.
But the legislation was hindered by several factors, including its late filing, Patrick's perceived opposition and a slew of other major issues that were occupying lawmakers at the time.
The Adelsons had previously caught attention for their lavish giving in Texas elections. The year before the legislative session, they gave $4.5 million to the GOP's successful battle to keep its majority in the state House.