It appears efforts to legalize sports betting in Texas are done for the year.
Supporters of legalization didn’t even get the weekend to celebrate what took place Thursday. That’s when the House passed a resolution calling for a voter referendum and a related bill about sports betting rules if voters were to approve the constitutional amendment.
Unfortunately, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick rained on the parade via social media.
In tweets from his official account, Patrick said neither measure stood a chance in the Texas Senate, the chamber over which he presides.
“I’ve said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP,” Patrick posted Saturday. “I polled members this week. Nothing changed. The Senate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB1942 won’t be referred.”
On Sunday, he made a similar comment about HJR 102, noting that it passed due to Democrats providing most of the support for the measure in the House.
The resolution passed by a 101-42 vote, one more than necessary to secure a two-thirds majority of the chamber, the threshold for passing a proposed constitutional amendment in the House. Republicans outnumber Democrats 86-64 in the House and 19-12 in the Senate.
“The Texas Senate doesn’t pass bills with GOP in the minority,” said Patrick. “The GOP majority guides our path.”
The legislative session is scheduled to end on May 29.
Patrick a Long-Time Opponent of Betting
Patrick’s opposition was not surprising. He’s long opposed efforts to offer casinos or Texas sports betting apps.
While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has softened his stance on gaming over time, Patrick has not, and with the Texas lieutenant governor presiding over the Senate, that position wields more power than it does in other states.
With Patrick as an impediment in Austin, any expanded gaming measure faces an uphill climb for the foreseeable future.
Texas voters elected Patrick to a third term in office last November, so his term won’t end until January 2027. Also, the state’s legislature only meets in regular session every other year. So, unless Patrick has a change of heart in 2025 or more Republican senators come on board by then, the best opportunity for any gaming bill might not come until 2027.
Casino Legislation Fails in House
While the Texas House approved sports betting legislation for the first time this session, efforts to pass casino legislation were not as successful.
HJR 155, which would have put the casino question to voters, received 92 yes votes after it was read for the second time on the House floor Wednesday.
If approved, the amendment would have allowed up to eight resort-style casinos in Texas, which is surrounded by states that are home to commercial and/or tribal casinos. The amendment didn’t include Texas online casinos.
While it enjoyed significant support in the House, it did not meet the two-thirds requirement. State Rep. Charlie Geren, the measure’s sponsor, postponed a vote twice Thursday after it received a third reading. Then on Friday morning, he pushed it back for consideration in 2025.