The second highest-ranking politician in Texas poured cold water over the idea of legal sports betting in the state.
“I’ve never been in favor of it,” Patrick said. “Every year I say the same thing. Don’t talk about revenues. The teams and casinos trying to push sports betting say they could generate $150 million a year by their numbers. That’s a lot of money. But it pays for half a day of our yearly budget.
“People were fooled many years ago when they were told the lottery will pay for education. Well, the lottery pays for a couple of days of education. Our budget is $125 billion. So if you want to pitch sports betting or casinos, talk about jobs, talk about tourism. Don’t talk about money because the members know better.
Not enough political will for Texas sports betting
Texas would need to amend its constitution to allow sports betting but Patrick said the Senate was “nowhere close” to having the votes to do that.
“The Democrats are all-in, but when you don’t even have a sponsor, it’s not something you spend much time on,” the Lieutenant Governor said.
Republicans have an 18-13 majority in the Senate, with 21 votes needed to send a constitutional amendment to voters. Patrick also said the Texas sports betting push is held back by the number of stakeholders pushing in different directions.
Stakeholders fighting amongst themselves
As reported by LSR last month, Texas pro sports teams are backing a draft bill that would make them the license holders. Those teams finally went on the record with that support this week.
Dallas Cowboys EVP and chief brand officer Charlotte Jones told The Dallas Morning News:
“Unregulated and illegal sports gambling is already taking place in the State of Texas. Legalized sports betting would regulate the industry and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for the state which will help fund critical programs without raising taxes.”
However, there are also casino interests pushing for legalization in the state, and opposition from religious group and Oklahoma gaming tribes.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Patrick said. “Usually there’s two sides to an issue. But there’s so much infighting and competition here. That’s why it never goes anywhere. It’s not an issue that’s going to see the light of day this session. There may be a bill filed this session but I doubt it.”
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Despite Patrick’s antipathy, there have been two gambling bills filed in the Texas legislature this year.
Rep. Harold Dutton filed a sports betting bill in January, although it has not yet moved.
Likewise, Senator Roland Gutierrez filed a bill this week to amend the state constitution to allow casinos. Stakeholders including Mark Cuban and Las Vegas Sands have voiced their support for the effort.
But overall, it appears the industry now faces an uphill battle.