A Wednesday evening hearing in the Texas House State Affairs Committee did not yield any progress on the sports betting legalization proposal. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Bill sponsor seeking a public vote
A hearing about sports betting legislation in the Texas House State Affairs Committee took place on Wednesday evening, with no immediate action taken. House Bill 2070 (HB 2070) is pushing for legal sports betting in Texas, with a companion bill currently at Senate consideration stage.
only bill included in the current legislative session that could take in guaranteed revenues for education and schools
During the committee hearing, main bill sponsor Rep. Dan Huberty claimed that this is the only bill included in the current legislative session that could take in guaranteed revenues for education and schools in the state. He spoke about how illegal betting takes place all across Texas, saying the state could benefit from legalization of the activity.
A group of professional sports teams in Texas and numerous sportsbook and racetrack operators make up the Sports Betting Alliance, which backs the proposed legislation. The group estimates that Texans spend $5.6bn each year placing bets on the black market.
Huberty wants to tie HB 2070 to House Joint Resolution 97 and have Texans vote on the matter in November. In order for this to happen, the legislation will need to get two-thirds approval in both the House and Senate. If the measure gets this level of support, the governor would then not be able to veto the measure. The current legislative session ends May 31.
A potentially all-encompassing approach
Huberty believes that Arizona’s plan for legalizing sports betting would be a good template for Texas. The state plans to work closely with Native American tribes and professional sports teams to make sure that everyone benefits.
A Kickapoo Tribe representative spoke during the hearing on Wednesday, saying the tribe would likely be supportive of the bill if the language was amended to allow it to partake in a legal sports betting sector.
Representatives from some professional sports teams in Texas and certain betting operators also provided testimony at the hearing. Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown and Texas Rangers president Neil Leibman were both in favor of legalization.
Texas presents a massive market
As the second most populated state in the US, Texas would be a huge market for legal sports betting. A 10% tax on sportsbook revenues included in the current proposal, together with license fees. Most of the resulting funds would go to educational programs in the state.
online sportsbooks, as well as allowing betting on college sports
The bill aims to decriminalize sports betting and give the green light for sportsbooks to launch. This would include online sportsbooks, as well as allowing betting on college sports and professional sports teams to get an operational license. Facilities such as the state’s horse and greyhound tracks would also be eligible to apply for a license.
Texas is one of the more restrictive states when it comes to gambling, with very little gambling expansion taking place over the years. Since sports betting became federally legal in May 2018, sports betting legalization efforts have not gained much traction in the state.
Republican Representative Huberty does seemingly have bipartisan support in the Senate, but Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick stated in February that sports betting legalization had no chance in 2021. Huberty believes that the lieutenant governor will be open-minded when considering the idea. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not publicly outlined his formal stance on the issue.
Huberty also believes that the general public will support the idea, as the state historically has been in favor of independence and allowing people to decide on things for themselves.
The push for commercial casino legalization
As well as the push for sports betting in Texas, Las Vegas Sands is leading a movement to allow legal commercial casinos in Texas. The casino company is spending millions of dollars on a new advertising campaign across radio and television starting Thursday.
casinos would help to fund vital services and create tens of thousands of jobs
The ads refer to the “billions of tourism and gambling dollars” that leave Texas each year and go to nearby states. They also mention how legal casinos would help to fund vital services and create tens of thousands of jobs.
Las Vegas Sands is supporting legislation that would see Texans voting to allow four “destination resort” casino licenses. The facilities would be located in the four biggest metropolitan areas in the state – Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas Fort-Worth. The casino company has also spent millions on lobbyists during the current legislative session to try to persuade lawmakers to consider the proposed measure. However, there has not been much progress on the matter.
Lawmakers filed House Joint Resolution 133 and Senate Joint Resolution 49 in March and seek a public vote on the matter. At the time of the filings, industry analysts said that approval of casino legislation was unlikely.