WESLACO, Texas – It is not yet part of her group’s legislative agenda but RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Cynthia Sakulenzki says she personally supports the legalization of gambling in Texas.

Working with the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the RGVHCC co-hosted a sendoff reception for the Valley’s legislative delegation at UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Center for Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco last week. While welcoming the legislators present, Sakulenzki said:

“I have a personal request for this year’s session. I believe we have our legislative agenda that we will give to you. But my personal request, and I know I am speaking for a lot of you is, that you all look into legalizing…”

For dramatic affect Sakulenzki then paused. Those in the audience started to laugh and cheer as they began to wonder what Sakulenzki wanted to legalize. “Hey, hey, hey,” Sakulenzki responded and then paused again. There were more laughs and cheers before Sakulenzki said: “…gambling.”

There was even more applause from the audience.

The Texas Constitution outlaws gambling. To overturn this the Legislature would have to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the voters to approve gambling. Many Texans that like to gamble go to neighboring states to do so.

“We definitely don’t need people going to Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and leaving their tax dollars there, when they could be spending it here at our hotels and our restaurants,” Sakulenzki said. “We definitely need to get that done and out of the way.”

There were two of the Valley’s legislative delegation at the RGVHCC/RGVP event to hear Sakulenzki’s legislative request: state Sen.-elect Morgan LaMantia of South Padre Island and state Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City.

Asked by the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service afterwards if legalizing gambling was part of the RGVHCC’s agenda for the upcoming legislative session, Sakulenzki said she did not think so. She reiterated that she had been speaking in a personal capacity.

Sakulenzki said she was encouraged by a story she read during the 2022 general election campaign that said Gov. Greg Abbott could be persuaded to support the legalization of gambling. In the past he has opposed it. According to KENS 5 TV, since 2021, casino operators have donated nearly $2.5 million to Abbott’s campaign. 

“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary, told KENS 5 reporter Matt Houston. 

“But, if there is a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Governor Abbott would take a look at it,” she added. 

Richard P. Sanchez, the RGVHCC’s vice chairman of governmental affairs, confirmed that legalizing gambling was not part of the Chamber’s legislative agenda. Sanchez told the Guardian that the Chamber’s board of directors would have to take a vote in order to add it to the agenda.

Editor’s Note: Here is the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda:


New statewide group to represent Hispanic chambers of commerce 

In her interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Sakulenzki said her organization is set to join a new umbrella group that will represent all the major Hispanic chambers of commerce in Texas.

She said it will be called the Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Coalition.

Sakulenzki said the group will be holding a news conference on the south steps of the state Capitol in Austin on Monday, Jan. 9. She said the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has spearheaded the launch of the new group.

“The Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Coalition (THCCC) was formed in December of 2022 by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to provide a united voice for Hispanic businesses and Hispanics in business in Texas,” Sakulenzki said.

The THCCC is comprised of nine Hispanic Chambers in Texas representing some of the largest metropolitan areas in Texas. The members of the THCCC are:

  • Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Brazoria County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Midland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and
  • San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Previously, Hispanic chambers of commerce in Texas were represented by the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce.

“By connecting Texas Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, the Coalition will facilitate cooperative advocacy on statewide legislative issues,” Sakulenzki said. “The mission of the THCCC is to advocate for statewide policies that support the economic contributions and entrepreneurial spirit of Hispanic businesses and Hispanics in Business in Texas. This includes policies that are conducive to job creation, entrepreneurship, innovation, capital investment, small business growth, talent, and economic development.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a four-part series about the recent RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce-RGV Partnership legislative sendoff reception. Click here to read Part One.

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