With approximately three quarters of the states in America now having legal sports betting, the feeling has been that we’re down to a very few states that may be on the fence. After California rejected betting at the ballot box in November, much of the attention simply bounced back onto the Golden State in the assumption that it was the largest state that could realistically be a target for betting companies. However, the presentation of a bill in Texas may mean that an even larger state is about to adopt legal sports betting.
Let it be said right now that there is an incredibly long path to tread from the introduction of a bill to its becoming law in Texas. This bill, presented by Republican state Representative Charlie Geren, needs to gain support in both the House and Senate to the tune of 66% of lawmakers in each house. Should it achieve that considerable obstacle, it would then be placed before voters in the Lone Star state in November of this year. If the voters greenlit the bill, it would then become a law, and Texas could get to work on licensing and infrastructure.
The headline of the bill from a state point of view is in fact that it provides for land-based casinos in Texas, which Geren envisages would be casino resorts, providing not just in-house betting but a range of tourist amenities and destination venues. It is envisaged that these resorts would provide a healthy boost to hospitality in the state, which took a significant blow throughout the pandemic and, like other states, is taking time to recover.
However, for bettors, it is the possibility of online sports betting that stands out. Texas is a huge state for professional sport, with multiple teams in all of the country’s most popular national games. With nearby Arizona and Louisiana having already regulated online sports betting, legislators in Austin will no doubt have seen the potential economic benefits that can be realized by a state that permits online sports betting, and it should not go unmentioned that the bill will be heavily backed by sports teams in the state, including the considerable weight of the Dallas Cowboys and their owner Jerry Jones.
As well as having increasing support in Congress, it is widely believed that should the bill make it to the public vote, it would be well-backed there. Recent polls have shown that as many as 75% of Texans would support the provision of sports betting. And the perceived moral opposition that the bill would face may have been overplayed in the past, as the same study, carried out by the University of Houston at the time a similar bill was introduced by Senator Carol Alvarado, indicated that more than 60% of evangelical Christians would vote Yes on the bill.
There may be a long way to go, but all the indications are that if things follow their normal path, there may well be legal sports betting in Texas by early 2024 at the latest.