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Sports Betting in Texas? Two Lawmakers Give it a Go

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:
Feb/23/2021

Texas is among the least likely to legalize sports betting, but it is the biggest prize for industry proponents after California.

Little Interest in Gambling

  • Conservative leadership has shown little interest in embracing any form of gambling in the Lone Star State. 
  • Texas Hold'em is more like Texas Bust'em.  Gambling rings and bookie businesses are routinely shut down and prosecuted in the state.
  • From the powerful Texas Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee: "We declare our opposition to gambling, specifically to the expansion of gambling in Texas. We call upon our elected officials to reject any state budget that relies on monies from gambling to fund legitimate state responsibilities."
  • Bingo, horse racing and dog racing are only somewhat accepted.
  • There is one Indian casino in Texas, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass. Only the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe is authorized to own and operate a casino under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1987.
  • Even if two-thirds of the House and Senate agreed on gambling in Texas, and even Gov. Greg Abbott signed off on it, the measure would have to go to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment before becoming law.

Why it Might Make Sense

  • When it comes to sports, there are few states with the type of fan-atics in nearly all corners of the population than Texas.  College football reigns supreme statewide while the big cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio each have pro teams. 
  • Sports handicapper Lee Sterling: "You're going to see bigger crowds at games because they're going to want to be involved. They can wager on in-game wagers, individual plays, and the fans will want to stay there until the end of the games. It's exciting and if done correctly, I think it's a win-win for everyone."
  • The state is projecting the biannual budget to be $11 billion less than original estimates, largely due to COVID-19.  Proponents say $1.8 billion will be realized over 10 years if sports betting becomes legal.
  • A recent survey suggests Texans would be very much open to legalized sports betting. A University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs survey found 65% of Democrats, 53% of Republicans and 60% of independents say they favor gambling in the state.

Who is Behind the Push

  • Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson had some pull, but he just died.  From ABC 13:

As the session got underway earlier this month, the extent of Las Vegas Sands Casino's influence campaign in the state became more clear. Campaign finance reports that were due Jan. 15 showed that Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson gave $500,000 to Abbott in late October, making the casino mogul the governor's second largest donor for the reporting period, which covered the second half of 2020. Adelson died Jan. 11, but the company's efforts have continued.

  • On Tuesday February 23, 2021, Republican Rep. Dan Huberty and Democratic Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa each filed two matching bills in their respective chambers.
  • One of the bills would let voters decide if they want to amend the state constitution to legalize sports wagers. The other lays out the rules regulating sports betting.

- Gilbert Horowitz, Gambling911.com

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