Two Sports Betting Bills Introduced in Texas

  • One of the lawmakers backing legislation has a connection to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick
  • Patrick previously swore that sports betting legislation would fail as long as he had a say
  • Texas is one of several major states that does not have legal sports betting
  • A bill introduced last November would legalize sports betting and four casinos
Texas state capitol
Texas sports betting is an increasing possibility after a pair of pro-gambling bills were introduced to congress Monday. [Image:]

Texas sports betting back on the menu

Texas state legislators are taking another crack at legalizing sports betting with a pair of initiatives. 

legalize and regulate mobile sports betting in Texas”

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) both submitted bills on Monday that would “legalize and regulate mobile sports betting in Texas.” Kolkhorst’s involvement is of extra importance as she is aligned with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has sworn that he will strike down any attempts to legalize sports betting.

Thirty-six states already have legal sports wagering markets, 33 of which are operational. Texas could beat California, Florida, and others to the punch if it agrees on the future of its gambling ecosystem.

Details of the bills

The bills aim to promote a safer environment for gamblers in the Lone Star State, many of whom are using unregulated offshore sportsbooks or illegal bookies. As it stands, all forms of online gambling, including sports betting and casinos, are illegal in Texas. The only location where in-person betting is authorized by the state is at three tribal casinos, which are permitted by federal law.

“It makes sense to reign in all of the illegal offshore betting and keep sports wagering funds here in Texas,” said Kolkhorst in a statement released by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance. “[The bills] will promote integrity through transparent licensing, permitting, and reporting requirements.”

The previous attempt failed, but they returned with a narrower approach.

The Texas Sports Betting Alliance, an organization involved with local sports teams, racetracks and gambling companies, was firmly behind a 2021 proposal that would have brought sports betting into Texas. The previous attempt failed, but they returned with a narrower approach.

This time, only online betting would be legalized, if approved by Texas voters. The 2021 proposal called for the legalization of both online and retail sports betting, which drew strong opposition from many lawmakers. 

There would be a 10% tax on all gambling revenue, just like the 2021 plan. 

Patrick said before the current legislative session that there were no developments on the issue, though this status has not been updated since the bills were introduced. It remains to be seen if he will hold firm on his intent to kill all betting initiatives or trust Kolkhorst, who has teamed up with him on past legislative issues.

Overcoming naysayers

Texas as a whole has a strong history of opposition to sports betting, though that firm position has been slipping recently. Last year, the World Series champion Houston Astros formed a partnership with BetMGM, despite the company not being allowed to operate within state lines.

Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry also cast a vote in favor of legal sports betting despite opposing the creation of the market while he was in office. He reasoned that illicit gambling services have become so prevalent, as have legal destinations in nearby states, that Texas is risking increasing crime rates and lower tax pools to continue its anti-gambling stance.

he would be open to hearing proposals from the gambling industry

Perry’s replacement and current Governor Greg Abbott also acquiesced to the growing momentum that American sports betting has garnered. While making it clear that he does not want widespread gambling to take over Texas, he said last October that he would be open to hearing proposals from the gambling industry.

Kolkhorst joined the movement for several reasons, one of which was her athletic background. She played golf and was a four-year letter winner at Texas Christian University.

“As a former collegiate athlete, I respect the purity of sports and feel SB 715 and SJR 39 will promote integrity through transparent licensing, permitting, and reporting requirements,” Kolkhorst said in her statement.

Another bill introduced late last year by Carol Alvardo called for the creation of four casinos and the legalization of sports betting in Texas. It has not been approved, and critics worry that it could cause an increase in problem gambling.

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