Vegas Bets Big on Joe Straus, Texas Speaker of the House

Joe Straus
Joe Straus
Joe Straus

It looks like Vegas is betting that Joe Straus will be able to legalize gambling in Texas during the next legislative session. Grassroots groups have been warning Texans of this dating back to 2010. Here is an excerpt from an article in December of 2010 entitled “TEA Parties Unite to Oust Joe Straus.”

The Kaufman County Tea Party protested at the office of Representative elect Lance Gooden and had representation from Kaufman, Henderson, Cherokee, Van Zandt, and Smith counties. Many in the crowd were carrying signs that read “Slot Machine Joe Has Got to Go.” Legislators are expected to discuss the possibility of legalizing gambling in the state of Texas during the next session which would allow the installation of slot machines in race tracks across the state. The problem as stated by the Kaufman Tea Party is that Joe Straus has interests in Retama Park which stands to profit mega-millions if the legislation is passed. Strangely, Speaker Straus has “recused” himself from official discussion of gambling in the State House and has transferred his interests in Retama Park to another individual, his father.

The campaign of Straus’ challenger in the Republican primary, Matt Beebe, sent out the following press release.

April, 26th 2012
Contact:  Luke Macias


(San Antonio) Thursday morning Pinnacle Entertainment Corporation, based out of Las Vegas, announced a series of transactions which joins them with Joe Straus’ family business interests. The corporation acquired much of Retama Park for $22.8 million dollars in cash and debt acquisition.  Pinnacle Entertainment Corporation commented on the risky business decision stating, “We believe Retama Park provides significant strategic value for our shareholders given the potential approval of gaming entertainment centers at Texas pari-mutuel facilities¹”.

Matt Beebe commented on the expanded partnership saying, “Many voters I have talked to are worried about Joe Straus’ conflict of interest given his deep family ties with Retama. This recent partnership should concern San Antonio residents even more. WOAI’s story on the partnership made it clear that Retama Park ‘needs some form of pari-mutuel betting in order to thrive²’. These Vegas casino owners have bet big on Straus’ intention to legalize casino gambling in Texas.”

Beebe continued, “District 121 voters don’t want a State Representative whose special interest masters now include Vegas casino bosses who need him to deliver for their bets to pay off.”

A recent article in the San Antonio Express News³ claimed the debt Retama Park currently holds consists of 7.2 million in senior bonds, and a 1.6 million dollar note. The Retama Development Corp. (RDC) also owes $87 million in subordinate bonds, plus more than $150 million in unpaid interest. These debts will only be paid if the casino gambling lobby is able to legalize casino gambling, and in-turn produce positive cash flow.

“The Texas gambling industry has a failing business model and are now seeking to change the rules after the bets have already been placed.  As a small business owner I understand that when your business is failing you don’t go to the government looking for bailouts in the form of changes to the Texas constitution.  When the Vegas casino bosses cash their chips, it will be hard working Texas taxpayers left holding the bag.” Beebe concluded.

Matt Beebe resides in San Antonio with his wife and two children. You can learn more about his candidacy at his website



I’m sure that Joe Straus’ handpicked Ethics Committee Chair and recipient of over 40k in campaign contributions from Straus and a PAC he helped found, Chuck Hopson, will find no problem with ethics in this situation. In 2010, Mineola Representative Bryan Hughes testified before a meeting of the House Ethics committee. The meeting was about Speaker Joe Straus ally Rep. Larry Phillips, who also sits on the Ethics Committee, threatening Rep. Bryan Hughes with being draw out of his seat during redistricting if he did not support the incumbent speaker Joe Straus. Even though Hughes testified under oath, Committee Chair Chuck Hopson, who switched from Democrat to the Republican Party in 2009, found Phillips “innocent of any wrongdoing.”

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As I’ve said before, I prefer to remain neutral on the issue of gambling in Texas – that is up to the voters to decide. However, gambling is not the issue here – profiting off the legislation passed under your watch is. Yes, I know it happens all the time, but is it right? Texans deserve better.

Fortunately, the voters of HD-121 have the opportunity this May to remove Joe Straus not only as Speaker of the House, but out of the House of Representatives altogether. Matt Beebe is challenging Joe Straus for the nomination of the Republican Party for the State Representative of House District 121. The voters of HD-121 need only answer one question, “Do I want a representative or a profiteer?”

Full disclosure: On March 19th of this year, I personally endorsed Matt Beebe to replace Joe Straus.