Online Texas Sports Betting Bill Begins Challenging 2023 Journey

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Texas sports betting

An online-only Texas sports betting bill has been filed by legislators, with backing from professional sports teams in the Lone Star State

Republicans Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Jeff Leach introduced legislation Monday that would legalize and regulate online TX sports betting.

It proposes a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would go in front of state voters on Nov. 7, 2023.

The bill includes a 10% tax rate, and sportsbook market access via the state’s professional sports franchises. 

Texas sports betting bill breakdown

Under the bill language, “sports entities” in the state each would be allowed one online sports betting license. 

Sports entities are defined as sports teams (12), organizations that hold state-sanctioned professional golf tournaments (one) or Class 1 racetracks (two: Lone Star Park and Sam Houston Race Park.)  

Online sports betting licenses would cost $500,000 (three-year deals, renewable for $100,000.)

Promotional deductions for operators and college sports bets would be allowed.

How Texas could get to legalization

Any gaming legislation would change the Texas state constitution, thereby requiring a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House. 

It would then be up to voters to pass it across the finish line by simple majority at the polls on Nov. 7, 2023.

Texans have shown a willingness to support gambling expansion, with 75% of them supporting a bill amendment to legalize sports betting and provide the opportunity to build up to four resort-style casinos, according to the Dallas Morning News

There was also a second piece of casino legislation filed that would give priority to parimutuel racetracks, and allow for as many as seven resorts.

Owners: legalize Texas sports betting

Multiple owners further endorsed legal sports betting in the Lone Star State via statement. As with other pro sports teams in the US, it would help increase their bottom lines. 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: 

“A legal and regulated sports betting market is what’s best for Texas and I applaud Senator Kolkhorst and Representative Leach for filing this legislation. It will give Texans the ability to decide for themselves if they want this activity safely regulated or continue to be conducted in the shadows of out-of-state betting platforms.” 

Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta: 

“Sports betting is a very popular form of entertainment. Sports fans enjoy placing bets on their favorite sports because it brings them closer to the team and puts them in the game. No one wins with an illegal market as robust as the one in Texas and I applaud Senator Kolkhorst and Representative Leach for recognizing the need to address the illegal market in Texas.”

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane: 

“Sports betting is going to happen whether it is regulated or not. Rather than having Texans betting illegally through unknown companies in foreign countries, this bill will allow controls and safeguards for sports betting in Texas while generating significant revenue that will be used to reduce everyone’s property taxes in Texas.” 

Texas Sports Betting Alliance makeup

The Texas Sports Betting Alliance is a lobbying group compromised of the following pro sports organizations: 

It also includes a number of sportsbooks:

Several hurdles before legalization

While the bill has plenty of backing, it still has hurdles to clear to get across the finish line. 

“I recognize it’s going to be a tough lift in Texas for sure, but I still remain optimistic,” Fanatics VP of government affairs Brandt Iden told LSR last week. “Until I believe the door is closed by the Lieutenant Governor, and I haven’t seen that yet, I still think there’s a chance. 

“It’s going to be tough, but I still think there’s a chance.” 

Why Patrick is key

Any chance could hinge on whether Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick decides to back the bill. 

Patrick told an Austin TV station in January that he “did not see any movement on expanded gambling in the Lone Star State.”  But he hasn’t dismissed the idea this time around, at least as of yet, leaving the door open. 

Patrick has thrown cold water on expanded gambling in the past, and is considered possibly the largest stumbling block short of Gov. Greg Abbott

Conflicting interests with casinos

The DMN also reported that Las Vegas Sands has heightened its own lobbying spend for Texas casinos. Sands has hired at least 63 lobbyists, while paying them at least combined $5.9 million this year. 

A source recently told LSR that Sands will not permit a standalone sports betting bill to pass in the Lone Star State.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the DMN that he would like to partner with Sands to build a casino resort next to his team’s future new arena.