A recent survey conducted by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler asked Texas residents for their opinions on gambling in the Lone Star State. The results show that most surveyed Texans support casino gambling and sports betting.
Texas has some of the harshest gambling laws in the country. Under current Texas law, the only forms of legal gambling are:
- Parimutuel wagering (on horses, greyhounds, etc.)
- Charitable gaming
- Gambling at regulated Native American casinos (of which there are three)
- Texas State Lottery
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Attempts have been made to pass sports betting and casino gaming legislation in Texas, but it’s a lot easier said than done. Since gambling is banned by the Texas Constitution, it would take two bills to legalize sports betting. The first would be an amendment to the constitution, which would require two-thirds of both the House and Senate to pass. The second bill would have to decide details of licensing and regulation. This is where some states get hung up.
Many believe the gambling issue is simply not on politicians’ radars. Christian Life Commission lobbyist Robert Kohler agrees:
“Folks that are getting elected are not going to their communities and saying, ‘If you send me to Austin, I’ll vote for casinos, or fantasy sports or sports wagering.’ Until that day comes, I don’t see the needle moving.”
Of course, there is one factor that always moves the needle: Money. It’s projected that Texans spend $2.5 billion annually gambling in neighboring states. So the money is obviously there. And according to this recent survey, so is the support.
Most surveyed Texans support casino gambling and sports betting
Of those surveyed, 57% of people support casino gambling in Texas. Comparing that to the 29% that oppose it (13% were indifferent), you can clearly see support is there.
65% of respondents recognize the economic impact it would have. They said it would either help the state economy by “a great deal” or a “fair amount.”
The support doesn’t stop at the casinos. 43% of people showed their support for sports betting legalization, while 26% opposed it. A whopping 31% were indifferent.
Most opposed to gambling and sports betting are self-proclaimed white evangelicals. This group routinely blocks expansion of gambling in Texas. With that in mind, it’s important to note that 52% of white evangelicals surveyed were in support of casino gaming. So, opposition may be diminishing.
The future of sports betting in Texas
The Texas Legislature meets every other year, so their failure to legalize sports betting in 2021 kicked the issue down the road until 2023. Even if lawmakers approve sports betting, Texans will have to sign off at the ballot box.
According to the Texas Tribune, a majority of voters in Texas are 65 or older. This could hinder legalizing sports betting. Older folks tend to be against gambling of any form.
The first step rests with Texas politicians. Some receive substantial contributions from out-of-state casinos, so the money in their pockets may sway them more than the potential economic boost.
The Chickasaw Nation, which owns WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma, has donated more than $15 million to political interests – many of them in Texas.