Eilers & Krejcik Gaming (EKG), a research group in the gaming industry, sees “2025 as the more likely target for Texas online sports betting legalization.”
It released its assessment in a recent newsletter that itemized the hurdles facing sports betting bills.
While there are four sports betting bills proposed in the 2023 Legislature, the state is showing no urgency to advance them.
Other factors getting in the way include pushback from tribes, campaigns against gambling and multiple entities pushing for casino expansion as opposed to online Texas sports betting.
Will backing from high-profile Texans be enough?
Some of the biggest supporters behind the push for legal online Texas sports betting are Texas’ major sports teams and their owners.
In fact, all Texas pro sports teams have banded together under the Texas Sports Betting Alliance to support legal sports betting. Along with those teams are the following sports-wagering operators:
Former Gov. Rick Perry has also said he believes the overwhelming support across the state will make passing legislation a no-brainer.
According to EKG, this may not be enough.
Significant pushback from Texas’ three tribes
One of the opposing arguments made at the hearings in the Texas House State Affairs Committee came from the Alabama-Coushatta and Kickapoo tribes. Representatives from both tribes opposed all gambling bills as written, stating that they “do not see all three tribes represented” under current versions of the bills
Jennifer Hughes, counsel for the Kickapoo Tribe of Eagle Pass, Texas, cited the tribe’s opposition to House Joint Resolution 102, Rep. Jeff Leach‘s online sports betting constitutional amendment, unless the language is modified to allow sports betting on tribal lands.
Hughes also opposed Rep. Charlie Geren’s House Joint Resolution 155, which would legalize resort casinos and retail sports betting. Hughes described the financial hit the tribe would take once people from San Antonio, most of their customers, have a casino built closer to them.
“If they do, who is going to drive two hours to Eagle Pass?” she asked the committee. “That’s why we’re proposing an amendment.”
Online Texas sports betting could be on hold until 2025
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was questioned in a recent interview about legalizing sports betting, and his response was not reassuring.
Patrick expressed his support on the Chad Hasty Show for his good friend Leach.
“He can do what he wants in the House,” Patrick said. “But we don’t have the votes in the Senate as we sit here today.”
In terms of finances, other states have seen the legalization of sports betting as a financial incentive. They’ve pushed legalization through to cover potential financial shortfalls faced by the state.
According to EKG, Texas is in the exact opposite boat with a budget surplus. Knowing there is no urgent financial need to pass a bill now, lawmakers and interest groups can be as critical as they like.
At the end of the committee hearings, the four gambling bills were left pending with several amendments needed and many unanswered questions. There could be a vote if and when all of that is handled.
Should committees look favorably upon sports betting bills, they still face an uphill climb in both chambers of the Legislature.
Requiring a two-thirds majority to pass and a voter referendum, sports betting bills are a risky proposition this year.