The Lone Star State might join the legal sports gambling landscape. But not without a big fight.
Texas state Representative Eduardo Lucio introduced two sports betting bills late last month. The bills will have to go through a ballot question in November that citizens will be asked to fill out.
The bills would legalize sports gambling in Texas by next year, but they face a slew of significant resistance in the state legislature.
What Lies Ahead for Sports betting in Texas
Texas has a Republican-controlled legislature and these two bills would have to pass that. That will not be an easy path.
United States gaming attorney Daniel Wallach had a little more optimism, seeing it as progress toward helping change the stigma around gambling. This notion is especially important in a state that has a vast market because of its size and its huge professional and college sports dynamic.
”I think the introduction of a bill like this starts the conversation, and while it may not end up on the ballot this year. I think going forward, the prospects are promising for Texas because it’s probably one of the most important markets for sports betting, probably a top 5 market,” Wallach told News West 9 of Midland, Texas.
”You'd need a majority vote for this year's general election. If that were to pass, sports betting could be legal by next year."
Texas Sports Betting Bills Serve Different Purposes
The two bills are titled Texas House Bill 1275 and Texas House Joint Resolution 61. Joint Resolution 61 would propose a constitutional amendment that would approve the legislature’s ability to legalize sports betting. That’s a crucial step in the process for permitting sportsbooks in Texas.
HB 1275 would get sports betting running, launching regulations and additional essential laws for businesses to follow. However, Texas is proposing a 6.25 percent tax on every wager instead of a tax on the revenue of each sportsbook.
”The law enforcement isn't targeting gamblers, they're targeting those who run those businesses," Wallach said. "If you can get away with it, I guess you're technically violating the law. But I wouldn't expect Uncle Sam to be barging down on your door."
No Real Expectations for Texas in 2019
These bills are longshots to be passed this year. In fact, some in the state have been trying to end gambling totally for quite some time, with representatives asking state Native American tribes to end gambling at casinos.
Oklahoma and Louisiana could benefit if Texas doesn’t pass these bills. Both neighboring states have major casinos and both are a very easy drive for many people in Texas, though it’s worth noting that neither Louisiana nor Oklahoma have legal sports betting.
The biggest team in the state and one of America’s most popular pro sports franchises, the Dallas Cowboys, named Winstar Casino as its casino partner in September. That was the first type of partnership with a gaming venture in the NFL.
A slew of political money has come from casino owners into Texas over the years including just over $500,000 from Golden Nugget casinos owner Tilman Fertitta to governor Greg Abbott. On top of that, both the Choctaw and Chicaksaw tribes, Oklahoma’s two biggest casino owners, have donated just more than $5 million to Texas politicians since 2006.
But it still will be awfully tough to get these sports betting bills passed in Texas.