With failed efforts for California sports betting in the rearview mirror and Florida sports betting in court, Texas sports betting is the biggest fish out there looking at potential legalization in 2023.
The Texas legislature convened Jan. 10 for the first time since adjourning in 2021 and sports betting is a hot topic in the state. Texas lawmakers only meet every two years, so if a TX sports betting effort in 2023 fails, they will not discuss it again until 2025. The session runs until May 29.
Texas Sports Betting Alliance spokesperson Cara Gustafson has told LSR multiple times in the past few months it will be a strong legislative effort this year. Gustafson told LSR earlier this month bill language and sponsor would be announced by early February, though that target has come and gone.
The bill will need two-thirds support in both chambers as it would amend the Texas state constitution. Even if it passes the legislature, however, the issue has to go to the ballot in 2023 looking for a simple majority.
Texas sports betting fizzled out in 2021
There were several bills discussed in 2021, but none gained much momentum. Rep. Dan Huberty had the most support but failed to move the bill before the end of the session, and Huberty is no longer in the legislature.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was a vocal sports betting opponent during the 2021 legislative push. Recently, Patrick told Texas media there is “no movement” on sports betting, but reportedly has softened his stance on the issue.
There was also a bill to simply put the issue on the 2022 ballot, which also failed.
State’s top executives changing tunes?
Gov. Greg Abbott was fairly neutral in 2021 toward TX sports betting. Abbott said prior to this year’s mid-term elections he would be open to casino gambling.
Two sources recently told LSR that Patrick could be interested in online-only sports betting. With their reelection concerns behind them in 2023, Abbott and Patrick might not play defense as hard.
The SBA also announced former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as a spokesperson late last year. While not a supporter of gambling, Perry wants Texas to realize an estimated $250 million in taxes from online sports betting revenue.
Work behind the scenes
The SBA worked behind the scenes for the past year, meeting with legislators during the off year. The SBA includes major sportsbook brands and the state’s professional sports teams.
“We’ve done a lot of great educating and even though we’re not in session, there was still a lot to talk about,” Gustafson told LSR this fall. “We’ve made sure to sit down with leadership and certain players to understand their questions and ask, ‘What would it take to get you to vote with us?’”
Following the 2022 election, Gustafson said they would continue to work with leadership and freshman legislators heading into the session. The SBA estimates there are 2 billion illegal bets placed in Texas each year.
Texas team owners want sports betting
Professional sports teams are fully behind the Texas sports betting effort. Some of the teams already have partnerships with sportsbooks in place.
With powerful billionaires like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta controlling the teams, there is a lot of money in favor of the issue. Jones endorsed sports betting this month, saying he believes sports betting needs to be addressed.
While Cuban recently told LSR he is not working too hard on the issue, he told the Dallas Morning News recently he wants to partner with Las Vegas Sands for a resort casino next to the Mavericks arena. An industry source told LSR last week that Sands would not allow a sports betting-only bill to pass in Texas.
Fertitta unsure about immediate future of Texas sports betting
Fertitta recently told The Michael Berry Show on AM 740 in Houston that the clientele at his Golden Nugget Lake Charles in Louisiana is approximately 85% Houston-area residents. Could his success across the border satisfy his bank account for a few more years?
Fertitta said he does not see gambling happening in Texas for at least eight years, but did not specify if that includes sports betting. Fertitta and Patrick are close and the billionaire chaired the committee for last month’s Texas gubernatorial inauguration for Abbott and Patrick.
The Rockets owner also purchased land on the Las Vegas Strip last year with plans for a resort.
Casino bill in place
There is also a bill looking to legalize casinos in the state. Sen. Carol Alvarado pre-filed a bill in November.
The resolution would authorize sports betting but does not clarify if it is retail-only.
The SBA, however, is neutral on the casino bill.