Texas Sports Betting Proponents Come Forward In Committee Hearing

Posted on April 15, 2021
Texas sports betting

A Texas House committee held a public hearing on sports betting Wednesday.

House State Affairs Committee heard both positive and negative testimonies about HB 2070, which decriminalizes and sets regulations on sports betting. No action was taken.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dan Huberty wants the bill tied to HJR 97, which would put the issue on the ballot in November. For it to pass, it needs two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate. The hearing also included HJR 133, which would put casino gaming on the ballot.

TX sports betting has a long journey ahead of itself, as plenty of legislators and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are against the legalization.

Teams and operators speak up

Penn National Gaming Senior Vice President Eric Schippers spoke in support of the bill, mentioning Barstool Sportsbook in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan.

A lobbyist for BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel also testified.

Texas Rangers President Neil Leibman and Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown spoke in favor of the bill. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta owns Golden Nugget Casinos.

Texas teams are also represented by the Sports Betting Alliance, which is focused on mobile sports betting.

Texas sports betting bill

Huberty said the legislation is similar to the Arizona bill passed this week. Huberty called the bill “perfect.”

The bill would put Texas major professional sports teams and “Class 1” race tracks as the license holders. They would be able to partner with sportsbook operators.

One sports betting operator per team could offer retail betting and kiosks at the sports facilities, and provide state-wide online wagering.

The legislation offers language for retail licenses for minor league teams, smaller racetracks, motorsports tracks with at least 5,000 seats and golf courses that host PGA Tour events.

Tax revenue potential

Huberty said the bill legalizes an act already happening illegally and would bring in revenue for education.

The bill would implement a 10% tax on adjusted gross revenue. As the market matures, the legislative fiscal note projects it could generate more than $48 million annually to the general fund.

The state is the second-most populous in the nation, with rabid college and professional sports fans across sports. The bill does allow for bets on in-state college sports.

Texas politicians split on sports betting

Huberty pointed to the revenue generated in Colorado from sports betting since its launch last year.

Committee member Rep. Matt Shaheen said he doesn’t believe sports betting revenue is a net positive. Shaheen believes the costs of increased homelessness and welfare outweighs any new revenue generated, citing no evidence of a link to wagering.

Huberty’s bill is not the only sports betting bill this session. The Senate has a sister bill, SB 736. Additionally, Rep. Harold Dutton introduced HB 1121, a sports betting bill that doesn’t excludes in-state college wagering.

While Patrick has spoken out against sports betting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is reportedly for it, according to gaming lobbyist Bill Pascrell.

“I would put my money on Governor Abbott,” Pascrell said. “He’s a very powerful governor, who wants to do this and has been negotiating behind the scenes with teams and operators. This is a Herculean task but I’m pretty optimistic about Texas.”

Tribe against sports betting as is

A representative from the Kickapoo Tribe said it is against the legalization of sports betting in the bill’s current status.

The tribe operates the Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass.

If an amendment is made to allow for the tribe’s participation, its stance could change.

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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