There was an audible “whoa” heard throughout the House on Wednesday evening after the vote on Texas sports betting.
HJR 102 received 97 yeas and 44 nays following the chamber’s second reading of the resolution. It needs 100 votes on Thursday to pass the House and move on to the Senate.
Rep. Jeff Leach‘s enabling legislation received 84 yes votes on a second reading.
The constitutional amendment would allow voters to decide this November whether to legalize online TX sportsbooks licensed through the state’s professional sports teams. Another resolution to legalize casino gambling received a 92-51 approval before the sports betting bill hit the floor. That bill also needs 100 votes to pass.
Not a promising future in Senate
Even if the resolution passes the House, the odds are stacked against it in the Senate.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has continuously said there is not enough support in the Senate to pass the resolution and let voters decide on Texas sports betting.
He also wants Republican consensus, meaning 15 to 16 senators. He previously said:
“I need Republican consensus, otherwise it’s a Democrat bill.”
Sponsor: Texas sports betting already happening
Leach pled the same case that many legislators have across the country in pushing a piece of sports betting legislation.
“Members, let me be very clear: this constitutional amendment is not an expansion of gambling,” Leach said in his opening. “It is not. Our estimates are that over 1 million Texans every year are placing nearly 2 million bets online totaling $7 to $8 billion annually.”
Leach explained how easy it is to download an illegal offshore app and how he was one step away from placing a wager within the Texas Capitol. He also explained should that bet not be paid out, there is no legal recourse to get those funds.
Not mainly about revenue, Leach said
The first question from Rep. Steve Toth noted the argument is always about tax revenue, which Leach quickly rebuffed.
“Representative Toth, I don’t think you just heard a word out of my mouth about revenue, ” Leach said. “I didn’t say one thing about revenue.”
The biggest reason for Leach is the question of whether betting should be illegal under Texas law.
“The question for us primarily, fundamentally, at its core, is is this activity that should be criminal under the state of Texas,” he said. “Or do we, like I do, value freedom and liberty and trust our citizens to make decisions in the best interest of their families?”