Billionaire restaurateur and casino magnate Tilman Fertitta sees a professional hockey team as the next building block for the downtown Houston economy.

The owner of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets and the Golden Nugget casino empire said everything from hotels to restaurants to retail in the core of the fourth-largest city would benefit from hockey’s presence. A National Hockey League franchise is the last remaining major professional sport that doesn’t have a presence in Houston.

“We are talking to the NHL, but it’s got to be good for both of us,” Fertitta said during an interview with Bloomberg News in Houston on Tuesday. “We just know that when there’s a concert downtown, how it activates downtown, we know what the Astros do for downtown, we know what even soccer does for downtown.”

Although Fertitta has been courting the NHL about bringing a team to Houston since he bought the Rockets for US$2.2 billion seven years ago, he said discussions have recently turned more serious. Fertitta noted that he’s open to helping bring in either an expansion franchise or acquiring a team from another market.

A request for comment left with the NHL outside of normal business hours was not immediately returned.

Seattle was the most-recent recipient of an NHL expansion franchise and the owners of the team, called the Kraken, paid the league a $650 million fee to start playing in 2021. Last year, the owners of the Ottawa Senators sold a 90% stake in a deal valued close to $1 billion, according to Sportico.

Outlying suburbs of Houston have reached out to Fertitta about helping them attract an NHL team but he said boosting the downtown district  — where he owns restaurants that include Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick and Schmick’s and The Palm — has been a goal of his for decades.

Fertitta, who’s worth $11.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, also continues to push for grand, resort-style casinos in the Lone Star State. Thus far, efforts to expand the Texas gambling sector beyond the three existing Native American establishments have failed in the state legislature.

One avenue would be for pro-gaming lawmakers to make a direct appeal to voters in the form of a referendum that would open the way for gambling-expansion legislation, Fertitta said. If such legislation were to be approved, it would still take years for a new casino to open its doors, he added.