Texas sports betting looks dead for this session, but proponents still hope to put gambling expansion to a referendum next year.
Operators and local sports teams had been backing Rep. Dan Huberty’s HB 2070 in Texa,s which decriminalizes and sets regulations on sports betting.
Another joint resolution from Rep. John Kuempel and Sen. Carol Alvarado also aimed to legalize Texas sports betting and casino gaming.
Time running out
However, with less than a month left in the 2021 legislative session, proponents seem resigned to defeat. The Sports Betting Alliance, which represents several Texas pro sports teams, confirmed HB 2070 stalled.
Likewise, Kuempel told the Dallas Morning News his legislation had run out of steam.
“There’s not time for it to pass this session,” Kuempel said.
Why Texas sports betting stalled
Kuempel said there was insufficient support, in part because budget holes were smaller than previously feared. Powerful politicians like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also opposed the effort.
A Sports Betting Alliance spokesperson told LSR they were still hopeful of getting a vote on HJR 133. That resolution would put a gambling expansion question in front of voters via referendum in 2022.
Sports Betting Alliance spokesperson Cara Gustafson said:
“We are still hopeful to get a vote this Session on the HJR to allow Texans to decide if they want to regulate the offshore sports betting industry ($5 billion in illegal bets annually). The session isn’t over yet!”
As in states like Louisiana and South Dakota, lawmakers would still need to pass a sports betting bill if the referendum motion is approved.
Optimism for 2023
Regardless of the outcome, supporters said Texas sports betting made progress in 2021, with the state always a long shot to get anything done on gambling.
“I am more optimistic than I’ve ever been,” Sen. Carol Alvarado told the Dallas Morning News. “We have known all along this is a long-term attempt.”
The state held a hearing on sports betting in April that helped educate lawmakers and fleshed out a potential market framework.
Huberty said the Arizona sports betting legislation was “perfect.” That model split 20 licenses between the state’s professional teams and gaming tribes.
A similar model could well be at the center of the Texas sports betting effort when the legislature meets again in 2023.