After two hours of testimony Wednesday, the Texas House State Affairs Committee left pending Rep. Jeff Leach’s online sports betting bill and his call to put sports betting on the 2023 general election ballot as a constitutional amendment.
Leach, R-Plano, is the sponsor for HB 1942, which calls for the regulation of Texas sports betting, and HJR 102, a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution authorizing the legislature to legalize wagering.
No vote was taken on either bill Wednesday.
Leach’s bill would legalize only Texas betting apps and doesn’t call for any “brick and mortar” structures, he said. It would set online sports betting licenses at $500,000, place a 10% tax rate on winnings, and the revenues would be dedicated to cutting property tax rates across the state.
“Texans should be able to choose what’s right for them,” Leach said. He closed his proposal after testimony from 15 people speaking for and against HB 1942 by quoting former President Donald Trump by saying “when it comes to sports betting, whether you have it or you don’t have it, you have it. And he’s right. In Texas, we have mobile sports betting.”
Texas Pro Sports Teams Show Support
Those speaking for HB 1942 included representatives from the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Astros, San Antonio Spurs, the Sports Betting Alliance, PENN Entertainment and Eilers & Krejcik.
Giles Kibbe, a senior vice president and general counsel with the Astros, pointed out that 36 states have passed legislation. Bobby Perez, chief legal counsel for the Spurs, cited how Texas sports teams are at a competitive disadvantage to teams from states with access to giving their fans the sports betting experience.
"Every major broadcasting network and every sports franchise, every sports league, has fully embraced sports betting,” Kibbe said.
Scott Ward with the Sports Betting Alliance said geo location firm GeoComply blocked 2.85 million attempts by Texans to bet during the 2022 NFL season, including 84,000 during Super Bowl week. There were also 73,000 attempts in the first week of March Madness with the NCAA Tournament.
Chris Grove with Eilers & Krejcik said Texans currently wager $6.2 billion a year illegally, which is activity that “creates no tax revenue and minimal economic activity.” He said a mature online sports wagering market after four or five years would net $2.37 billion in gross gaming revenue, which would result in $180 million in direct annual tax revenue to the state.
Grove also said legal online sports wagering could create hundreds of direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs.
Committee Questions Fees, Tax Rate
Some on the committee questioned Leach about how the $500,000 license fee and 10% tax figures were created, and he said he was willing to adjust those if discussion warranted some changes.
Those who spoke against the bills included representatives with Texas Values, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission and the Kickapoo Tribe of Texas. They spoke about potential harms of gambling on families, those with gambling addictions and being against it on morality issues.
“There will be victims. We just don’t know their names yet,” said Russ Coleman from Texans Against Gambling.
One potential sticking point that could cause Leach’s bill to be amended came from Jennifer Hughes with the Kickapoo Tribe. The bill as it’s currently written wouldn’t allow any American Indian tribes in Texas to offer sports wagering, and that’s something that would need federal approval under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Hughes has had some communication with Leach about this, and Leach said he’s willing to discuss amending the bill. That could further delay a committee vote to send the bill to the House.
Jason Cohen, general counsel for the Cowboys, said that 58% of the adult population in the United States has access to legal sports betting online, but that Texans do not.
"We hope to continue to give our fans new ways to interact with our team," Cohen said.
If sports betting does become legal in the state, BetTexas.com will be your source for Texas sportsbook promos.