Don’t Bet on Texas Sports Betting in 2021
Texas is the second-most populous state in the country, and it appears that attempts to pass legislation for Texas sports betting to become legal will have to wait until 2023 as the current legislative session winds down. Supporters hoping to have Texas join 25 other states where wagering on sports has been legalized don’t appear to have enough time to finalize the legislation and get it submitted for a vote.
What complicates Texas’ situation is that the prohibition of gambling is included in the state’s constitution, requiring an amendment in order to make the practice legal. So not only does the legislation require a two-thirds majority of the legislature to approve it, but then it needs to be put on the ballot for voters to approve the measure by a simple majority.
The Lone Star State is one of the remaining crown jewels of potential sports betting, along with Florida and California. Unlike those two states, there is no legal gambling at all in Texas, with the state still resisting attempts by tribal groups to open casinos.
That makes any legislation to legalize any form of gambling in Texas a complicated exercise, unlike other states that can focus more specifically on sports wagering instead of having to deal with gambling activities as a whole. In addition, because of the huge revenue potential of a state with almost 30 million residents, there are a lot of parties with vested interests in seeing gambling and sports wagering approved, and they are spending a lot of money to see that it happens.
Casino companies, online sportsbook operators, the state’s eight Big Four professional sports franchises, tribal groups, and the state’s tax coffers all stand to greatly benefit from the legalized gambling and sports betting. With so many influential parties in favor of legalization, it might be assumed that it would be a slam dunk, and it would breeze through the legislature.
The eight major Texas professional sports teams are the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans in the NFL, the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, and the Houston Rockets in the NBA, the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers in the MLB, and the Dallas Stars in the NHL. Aside from the eight, there are more pro sports franchises in the Lone Star State that has huge public interest, such as the four Major League Soccer (MLS) teams: Austin FC, FC Dallas, Houston Dash, and Houston Dynamo.
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What’s the Problem?
The problem is that all of those interested parties have their own ideas about what the details should entail, so crafting legislation to address everyone’s concerns and issues can be a complicated endeavor, which is what the sponsors of the bills are experiencing. Recently, Florida’s legislature called a special session to address recently proposed gambling and sports wagering legislation, but there has been no indication that Texas will take the same action.
Texas’ legislature is only in session bi-yearly, so if they run out of time in the current session, as it looks like they will, it will be November of 2023 before there will be any chance for Texas to even vote on the issue, with implementation probably coming sometime in 2025. Despite the apparent failure in this session, supporters are optimistic that all of the work will pay off in 2023 and that they’ll be successful in getting gambling, including sports betting, legalized at that time.
The bottom line is that unless something dramatically changes over the next three weeks, anyone looking to have Texas in the legalized sports betting fold will have to wait a couple of years and set their sights on other states.