Anyone watching the spread of sports betting legislation in the USA since 2018 will have seen plenty of twists and turns. Some states considered to be unlikely betting adopters have long ago launched their wagering platforms, while others that were felt to be slam dunks have rejected betting for one reason or another. If you hadn’t been following along as states get ticked off the list, would you ever have presumed that Kansas would permit online betting before California?
One of the motifs throughout this time has been the solid “No” status of Texas. The largest contiguous state in the union, home to innumerable professional teams across every sport with a US fanbase, a considerable “whale” to anyone trying to crack the sports betting market. There’s no doubt that Texas would be a huge “get” for any sports betting company, and more or less a license to print money. But Texas is also home to a lot of conservative lawmakers, in every sense of the word, so it was assumed that the Lone Star State would remain aloof from the crowd.
In recent months, particularly in the last few weeks, there have been discernible cracks in the edifice which suggest that Texas might not be so steadfastly against online sports betting. State lawmaker Carol Alvarado has made clear her intention to being forward legislation that would, at least, permit legal online sports betting and brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. And although Alvarado is on the Democrat minority in the Texas Senate, her desire to bring betting to the state is not something that can be dismissed out of hand.
For years, former Governor Rick Perry has been vocal about his opposition to ever permitting betting to take place in the state. Recent weeks, however, have seen Perry lend his voice to the state’s Sports Betting Alliance, a growing pressure group which backs Alvarado’s intended sports betting bill. Perry has indicated that with a growing number of states having legalized betting, there is little point in holding out against the tide – and that he believes now is the time to legalize betting, make it safe, and ensure that the revenues go to needy causes rather than, in his words, “some nefarious platform”.
In the wake of Perry’s conversion, the state’s highest-circulation newspaper the Dallas Morning News published an editorial saying it was time to “let the people decide”. A historically conservative newspaper, the Morning News stopped short of saying that betting should be legalized in the state. The fact that it is prepared to countenance it happening, however, is something that would not have been considered likely even a year ago.
The final decision on sports betting in Texas will, in any case, fall to its people, who would need to vote on any legislation liberalizing the state’s existing ban on any form of wagering. This would be a change to the constitution, which requires a referendum to ratify it even if passed in Congress. In recent polls, a plurality but not a majority of Texas residents have indicated their support for legal sports betting. The months to come could be fascinating for anyone who follows betting legislation; one of the biggest dominoes of all may be about to fall against all the odds.