Of all the states yet to permit expanded betting, there are few that the gambling companies have eyed with greater intensity than Texas. The Lone Star state has been a notable holdout in the recent rush of jurisdictions liberalizing their betting laws, and all indications have been that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. However, one lawmaker has now broken from the pack to put forward potential legislation with the aim of bringing sports and casino betting to the state.
The bill, filed by State Senator Caroline Alvarado, is currently known as Senate Joint Resolution 17. It would legalize online sports betting and permit the building of new casinos in the state’s primary cities. As the legislation is at a preliminary stage, it is not heavy on detail at the present time, but it does state that the number of casinos would be limited – so we might expect to see new facilities built in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and state capital Austin.
Texas is also home to a significant number of professional sports teams. The NFL has the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans; the NBA offers Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs; baseball offers the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros; while the NHL is home to the Dallas Stars. Many team owners are understood to favor the liberalization of Texas state gambling laws, in no small part because it would likely see sportsbook facilities opening at the stadia of these professional teams.
Right now, the chances of Alvarado’s bill passing through state congress and becoming law in 2023 are considered to be remote at best. Put simply, the state’s leading lawmakers are generally opposed, and it is felt that while there exists a constituency for betting in the state, movement towards eventual provision will be slow. State Governor Greg Abbott is agnostic on betting, having indicated a personal opposition but stating that he is prepared to work on legislation, while Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is entirely opposed, and controls the Texas Senate.
Although those details can be finessed, what really stands in the way of sports and casino betting happening soon is the need for a two-thirds majority in Senate and the House, which if achieved would see the bill go to a public ballot next autumn. The congressional majority will be extremely difficult to achieve, as the Republican majority in both chambers is deemed largely conservative and unlikely to adopt change at this pace. If legislation reached the point of public referendum, however, it is believed that the public sentiment would be in favor, and unlike California, Texas would see sports betting ushered in by voters.
Under the surface, it may be that Senator Alvarado fully understands her legislation is unlikely to pass at this stage. What it may do is open the debate on sports and casino betting in Texas, and begin to flush out lawmakers who may be in favor of betting but have caveats. In this light, the bill may be considered to be a starting point for negotiations – which indicates that we probably won’t see sports and casino betting in Texas within the next 12 months, but we may see the beginnings of what eventually becomes the state’s betting law.