Brandt Iden, the former state legislator in Michigan who helped that state legalize online casinos and sports betting, had reached his term limit and joined gaming technology company Sportradar.
Now the head of Government Affairs in the U.S. for Sportradar, Iden bridged the gap between the interests of commercial gambling companies and Native American gaming enterprises in Michigan.
Iden recently discussed the likelihood that Texas sports betting could be legalized. It is considered one of the three “crown jewels” of states that have not launched sports betting yet, along with California and Florida.
His answers have been edited lightly for brevity and flow.
Texas Legislature Back in 2023
Texas, unlike California and Florida, the other two large states without legal sports betting, has no large-scale casino gambling. In keeping with the Lone Star State’s traditional anti-gambling persuasion, there is no sports betting, either.
However, some think that state legislators might be receptive to sports gambling, absent other types of gaming. Contributing to a slow pace in Texas is that the state legislature meets only every other year. The next Texas legislative session will be in 2023.
Continuing to Lobby for Texas Gambling
BetTexas: Texas is a paradox. Everyone understands Texans love sports and it’s well-known they have an enthusiasm for gambling, but there has been a big push back because of social values? How does this all end?
Iden: There's no history of regulated gaming in Texas. They haven't had any. What's interesting in Texas is that you got the Las Vegas Sands folks who have been spending a tremendous amount of money over the course of the past three years in the state, really working on the education part of that (among) legislators. I actually think today, if sports betting were to go up in Texas, it passes.
The issue in Texas has always been and will continue to be the (gaming) industry has said, "We want more than just sports betting in Texas, and it has to sort of be a full-on gaming approach. We want to open up Texas for more gaming, we want bricks-and-mortar casinos, we want resorts destinations, and we don't just want sports betting." And so, I think, that is always a much bigger hurdle and a much bigger ask than just the sports betting ask, which always takes longer.
From everything that I've heard, the Las Vegas Sands folks have continued to be very active in the off-year with legislators and with the governor's office. Governor (Greg) Abbott has always sort of been fairly agnostic on the issue of gaming.
He's always sort of deferred to the lieutenant governor on this. I envision that he'll probably win his re-election. And I think it sort of puts us in the same spot as it did last (time). A lot of work has been done to educate those lawmakers, which may change the dynamics a little bit.
”... I'm bullish on Texas. I don't know that this will be the year for it, but I know that we'll get there.”
Losing Revenue to Bordering States
BetTexas: Considering Texans are already routinely gambling in casinos in adjacent states, notably Oklahoma (Dallas area) and Louisiana (Houston area), is that going to work against Texas?
Iden: Anytime you can make the argument with legislators that you're losing revenue to other states I think it changes the dynamic. And here's a big one that will move Texas, I think, a little bit this year, and that is they don't have those (pandemic) federal dollars anymore. Those federal dollars are dried up. All market indicators say we're headed toward an economic slowdown, some say recession, if we're not already there. And that changes the state budgets and the dynamics of state budgets. When states need money, they look for other areas of revenue other than raising taxes. And I think Texas is primed for that.
I think one of the reasons Texas didn't move last year was because they were flush with cash from the federal government, and they didn't need the money. Now, that dynamic changes, you may get sway from some legislators that before were No votes who now say, "Look, we'd love to do it. We don't want to raise taxes, let's find other avenues of revenue."