Texas, one of the three great remaining prize states (with California and Florida) that still don’t have sports betting, has a new bill in the state legislature this session.
There are two major changes with the bill, which might give Texas sports betting its best chance yet at becoming legal and regulated.
What Texas Sports Betting Proposal Stipulates
The first change is that it would allow for only online wagering. The second is that it’s being supported by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham. A bill could get nowhere if only Democrats brought it forward – Republicans outnumber them in the Texas Senate 19-12 – but more important, she’s a supporter of Lt. Gov. Mike Patrick, one of the major thorns in the side of those advocating sports betting in Texas.
Kolkhorst being in the sports betting camp might be an indication that Patrick is willing to give a little. Supporters of the new bill are now stressing it as a safety issue – to protect Texans’ data from illegal offshore bookmakers. (And, we guess, casinos in neighboring Louisiana, where residents in East Texas go to gamble.) They are also using words like “purity” and “integrity” to boost the appeal of legal, regulated sports betting.
Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen who failed last time with his sports betting bill, has signed on to Kolkhorst’s bill. In the Texas state House, the bill is being pushed by Jeff Leach, a Republican from Plano.
Powerful Backing for Sports Wagering in Texas
When it comes to the big money power in the state, it’s all in on sports wagering. The legislation is backed by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, which has former Republican Gov. Rick Perry advising it.
The idea brings together Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys, Janice McNair and the Houston Texans, Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks, Peter Holt and the San Antonio Spurs, Tilman Fertitta (who also owns Golden Nugget Casinos) and the Houston Rockets, Jim Crane and the Houston Astros (who already have BetMGM as a sports betting partner), Ray Davis and the Texas Rangers, Tom Gaglardi and the Dallas Stars, plus every Texas pro soccer franchise.
Also on board are the PGA Tour and Texas Motor Speedway, plus national sports betting operators BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, Barstool Sportsbook and Fanatics. That’s a lot of lobbying power.
Another lobbying group representing the Las Vegas Sands wants to push the bill a step further and legalize casino wagering in the state. That, along with sports betting, would be an enormous prize for the gaming industry considering that Texas, with more than 30 million people, has the second-highest population of any state.
Other Possible Players
As of now, there are three tribal casinos in the state (they offer no sports betting) and Texans can also wager on gambling cruises in international waters. There is also pari-mutuel betting at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Retama Park in Selma and Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. The Sands group is seeking support from the racetracks.
If the bill passes, mobile sports betting will come up for a vote in November. And even in a state that has a history of antipathy toward gambling, it’s hard to envision sports-crazy Texas voting against it.