What Dade Phelan’s primary win means for Texas casino development

Casino magnate Miriam Adelson poured money into Texas house speaker’s re-election campaign

Texas Speaker Wins Primary With Help From Casino Owner Adelson

From left: Dade Phelan and Miriam Adelson along with the American Airlines Arena in Dallas (Getty, Jeff Attaway, CC BY-SA 4.0 – via Wikimedia Commons)

Las Vegas Sands majority shareholder Miriam Adelson is betting big on Texas in hopes that Texas will soon bet big with her. Last night, her campaign scored a big win.

In one of the most closely watched primary races of the session, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan defeated challenger David Covey by 366 votes. As the official Republican candidate in a deep-red district, Phelan is all but certain to return to his seat next session. Adelson was Phelan’s top financial backer in the contest.

The win has implications for real estate. Adelson, who holds a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks with her son-in-law, Sands president Patrick Dumont, would be well-positioned to pursue a large mixed-use casino development around the Mavericks arena if Texas legalizes gambling resorts. 

Sands flooded the capital with lobbyists and donations last legislative session. While those efforts failed, the group shows no sign of slowing its push. Meanwhile, sports franchises across the country are using stadiums as anchors for mixed-use developments. 

Together, Adelson and her political action committees have given nearly $850,000 to Phelan’s re-election campaign, more than any of its other donors. Adelson personally donated $50,000 to the campaign, while Texas Sands PAC, the committee that led the push to legalize resort-style casinos in Texas last legislative session, has given another $315,000.

While the Texas Sands check alone was the third-largest contribution to Phelan’s campaign, Adelson has been using the committee to support plenty of other candidates. In February, she pumped $4.1 million into its coffers. 

Still, Phelan is the top recipient of campaign funds from Texas Sands. He has received $115,000 more than the next-highest recipient, Lieutenant Governor (and Phelan enemy) Dan Patrick.

Then there’s the Texas Defense PAC, which Adelson funded with $9 million in May 2024. That month, the PAC gave Phelan $480,747, spread across 11 contributions ranging from a few thousand dollars up to $114,000.

While Adelson donated huge sums to Phelan’s campaign, the speaker is one of the most well-funded politicians in the state. He received the second-most funds and spent the second-highest amount of any politician in the state this cycle, second in both to Gov. Greg Abbott. In total, Phelan raised $9.35 million and spent almost $12.7 million.

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The only other contributor to come close to Adelson’s donations was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which gave $750,000. Phelan’s other top real estate donors include the Texas Realtors PAC, which gave $175,336, the Texas Association of Builders PAC, which donated $90,000. He also received $75,000 each from Dallas-Fort Worth real estate heavyweights Ross Perot Jr. and Harlan Crow.

When Adelson and her associates bought a majority share of the Mavericks last year, co-owner Mark Cuban specifically said their experience in building casinos will be important.  

Cuban told news outlets that the attraction of a resort-style casino goes far beyond just the gambling. 

“Honestly, I don’t care so much about sports betting,” Cuban said. “If you look at destination resorts and casinos, the casino part of it is tiny, relative to the whole bigger destination aspect of it. Could you imagine building the Venetian in Dallas, Texas? That would just change everything.”

Should casino resorts be legalized, Adelson has plenty of space to start building. When she and the Dumont family bought their stake in the Mavericks, an LLC tied to Sands Corporation bought more than a dozen acres from Cuban near the American Airlines Center, where the Mavericks play. They have also bought roughly 200 acres of land in Irving near the site of the former Texas Stadium.

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Last year, Phelan came out in support of destination casinos in Texas. He specifically said he wants ones that serve as anchors for larger real estate developments. 

“I want to see destination style casinos that are of high quality and that create jobs and that improve the lifestyle in those communities,” Phelan said. “That have hotels and concert venues, golf courses — that are major economic drivers.”

Legislation that aimed to allow casinos attached to hotels, shops and entertainment districts failed last session. 

Thanks to $850,000 and 366 votes, Texas Sands is primed to give it another push next year.