Gambling Legislation Faces Very Long Odds In 2025

Written By Phil West on June 17, 2024
Dan Patrick presents the biggest impediment to Texas gambling expansion

For those interested in seeing Texas pass sports betting and casino legislation, the 2025 legislative session will present a challenge for pro-gaming lawmakers.

Texas sports betting passed the House in 2023–the first such victory for any legal gambling initiative in Texas history. Despite that step forward, the Texas Senate and the conservative majority in both legislative chambers present major hurdles for both sports betting and Texas casinos.

Texas Republicans take aim at gambling and gambling interest groups

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. casino magnate Miriam Adelson is investing millions of dollars into pro-gambling PACs. That financial support helped Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and District 97 Republican candidate John McQueeney win extremely competitive primary races against anti-gambling opponents.

With the dust beginning to settle from the primary season, it’s clear that gambling proponents face an uphill battle in Texas’s increasingly conservative landscape. Last week’s Texas Republican Convention produced a platform with a specific anti-gambling plank, as well as one targeting the financial support Adelson offered candidates.

One Republican state representative, Rep. Jeff Leach of Allen, told the Dallas Morning News that the Texas Senate must be on board for any efforts to legalize gambling to succeed. He said,

“Based on what happened last session, I believe it’s generally understood that unless and until there is real movement and momentum in the Senate next session — meaning the Senate actually taking up and considering the issue — there is likely not going to be any meaningful action on it in the Texas House.”

With Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick overseeing the Senate, though, that’s unlikely. The same article quoted Patrick, in an interview last month with radio host Mark Davis, as saying, “We don’t pass any bills … that have a handful of Republicans and all the Democrats. I’m not passing a bill with all my Democrats and five or six Republicans.”

Patrick plans to run for reelection when his term ends in 2026.

Democrats and pro-gambling groups rally against expanding conservatism

In addition to Miriam Adelson’s recent political donations, the Dallas Morning News article notes that she and her late husband, Sheldon Adelson, have donated $21.5 million to Texas candidates since 2018, including $1.5 million to Gov. Greg Abbott. She’s also behind the Texas Destination Resort Alliance’s attempts to organize popular support for casino legislation, including gathering petition signatures and support from law enforcement and first responder organizations.

In better news for sports wagering proponents, former governor and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has been a visible representative of the Sports Betting Alliance and its efforts to lobby for legislation. The Texas House passed a bill in 2023 that would let voters decide whether to legalize online sports betting across the state.

Texas Democrats, who recently convened in El Paso, “emerged with a message that boiled down to defying Republican ‘extremism,’ energizing voters around abortion rights, public education and gun access, and painting a dark picture of a second Trump presidency,” according to the Texas Tribune. Although Democrats haven’t fared well in statewide elections and remain the minority party in the Legislature, they’re hoping that the extremist tilt of the GOP platform will sway more voters to the Democratic camp.

Wendy Davis, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate best known for her 13-hour filibuster in 2013 to fight a bill restricting abortion rights, said regarding the platform, “It is Looney Tunes, my friends. And if we think it isn’t our new reality, it is, unless we rise up and fight back.”

Texas gambling legalization looks slim in 2025

The Texas Senate represents the singular stumbling block to all Texas gambling expansion. While opposition exists in the Texas House, it has shown limited interest in gambling bills in the last two sessions. The Senate has not. And if Patrick is not willing to entertain legislation that doesn’t come with the Republican seal of approval, sports betting and casino expansion are going nowhere—full stop.

No matter how many lobbyists Adelson funds this next go-around — and the expectation is that it will be a significant number — it looks like long odds at present to move gambling forward in the Lone Star State.

Photo by Eric Gay / AP Images
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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