Polled Texans Strongly Favor Expanded Gambling In State

Written By TJ McBride on February 1, 2023 - Last Updated on February 3, 2023
Survey: Texans strongly back expanded gambling in state

Texans have shown yet again that they want more gambling options in the state. A recent survey by the University of Houston found that 75% of adults support current gambling legislation filed by Sen. Carol Alvarado.

No matter the gender, ethnicity, political affiliation or region of Texas where respondents call home, expanding gambling opportunities found significant support across all polled Texans.

Survey reached more than a thousand Texans

Besides a few tribal casinos, two with limited gaming, commercial casinos and sports betting are illegal in Texas. Efforts in the past to change that have failed in the Texas Legislature. There’s optimism that lawmakers and leaders in the state might be more open to expanding gambling options this session.

The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston conducted the survey of 1,200 adult Texans between Jan. 9 and 19. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and included a sampling of different genders, ages, races and levels of education in an attempt to accurately represent the adult population in the state of Texas.

Gambling was just one subject in the survey. The Hobby School released reports on several different topics, including:

  • Abortion
  • Elections
  • Energy
  • Firearms
  • Marijuana
  • School choice
  • State budget surplus

In this session of the Texas Legislature, the state enjoys an extraordinary $33 billion budget surplus. That money could go to all sorts of projects and services.

What do the people of Texas think the money should be spent on? That is specifically what the Hobby School survey aimed to answer.

Attitudes on gambling are changing in Texas

While precedent says gambling expansion and legalization are not good bets to make, things are changing in the state. Support to expand gaming options seems to be increasing across the board, from legislators to the citizens they represent. The support for expanded gambling has reached across political lines and demographics and also has the support of groups like born-again Christians.

Renée Cross, senior executive director and researcher at the Hobby School, says attitudes toward gambling are changing.

“Texas has historically had strict laws regulating most forms of gaming, even as neighboring states have expanded opportunities for casino gambling. Opponents have historically had powerful allies in the Legislature, but we found the public appears ready to back major changes in how Texas regulates gambling.”

And that support is found all across Texas, said Mark P. Jones, senior research fellow at the Hobby School and also political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“It’s not just that a majority of Texans support expanded gambling. We found a majority of people in urban, suburban and rural areas support it, and that cuts across racial, ethnic, partisan, religious and generational lines.”

Survey shows significant support for proposed casino/sports betting legislation

The survey’s results showed major support for expanding gambling in the state through current proposed legislation.

  • Three out of four adults support Senate Joint Resolution 17 (proposed legislation to expand gambling) passing.
  • Only 13% of respondents strongly oppose SJR 17.
  • In total, 69% support a stand-alone measure to legalize retail and online sports betting, with just 31% opposing it.
  • Sixty-nine percent of born-again Christians support SJR 17.
  • Eighty-three percent of Black Texans, 77% of Latino Texans and 73% of White Texans support SJR 17 passing.
  • Both male (78%) and female (72%) Texans support the passage of SJR 17.
  • Eighty percent of Democrats, 74% of independents and 72% of Republicans support the bill.
  • Geography is not a factor, as 75% of Texans in urban areas, 74% of Texans in rural areas, and 66% of Texans in suburban areas support SJR 17.

Cross thinks the results provide an opportunity for Texans to come together.

“We often talk about the issues that divide us as Texans, but proposals to expand legalized gambling in the state appear to be an example of the opposite. This shows us that there is room for common ground.”

UH survey confirms findings of 2022 PlayTexas survey

PlayTexas conducted a similar survey in November 2022 and found similar results. Overall, the PlayTexas survey indicated that 65% of Texans support gambling expansion, 10% below UH’s findings. The difference in support could owe to a slightly larger sample size (PlayTexas sampled 750 adults to UH’s 1200) or the added attention to legal gambling that the 88th Legislative Session has inspired. In both cases, survey results are in keeping with other surveys in the past decade that have shown continuous support for legal gambling.

In the specific case of expanding sports betting–both retail and online–PlayTexas and UH found that a smaller sub-section of respondents would support it.

SJR 17 would expand gambling slowly

State Sen. Carol Alvarado sponsors SJR 17. The measure would allow for one casino resort in each of the state’s four major metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Additionally, there would be limited casino gambling at greyhound and horse racetracks to go along with legalized retail sports betting. Also, federally-recognized tribes would be able to house slot machine games and table games.

Digital sportsbooks would remain illegal under the legislation. SJR 17 would legalize only in-person betting at casinos, racetracks and tribal casinos.

What SJR 17 entails

Some of the specifics of Alvarado’s SJR 17:

  • No more than four Class I gaming licenses for metropolitan areas with more than two million people
  • No metropolitan area with more than two million people will have more than one casino
  • There will be no more than three Class II gaming licenses for limited casino games to establishments with pari-mutuel horse racing licenses in metropolitan areas
  • No more than two Class III gaming licenses for limited casino games to establishments with pari-mutuel greyhound racing licenses in metropolitan areas with populations of less than two million people
  • Tax rate for table games would be 10% of gross gaming revenue
  • There will be a tax rate for slot machines at 25%
  • There will be a grant for federally recognized tribes to operate slots and table games at tribal casinos and other venues
  • A requirement for investors building any resort casinos in a metropolitan area of more than five million people to make an investment into the land and development of at least $2 billion
  • There is a requirement for all investors building any resort casinos in a metropolitan area between two and five million people to make an investment into the land and development of at least $1 billion
  • There must be a creation of a Texas Gaming Commission to regulate and oversee all licensing and development of the gaming industry and to gather and distribute all revenue gained to local and state programs

In order to go into law, SJR 17 needs to pass both houses of the Texas Legislature with two-thirds votes in each, receive the Governor’s signature, and then get approved by a majority of voters in a constitutional referendum.

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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver, Colorado who covers the Denver Nuggets as a beat writer and the current gaming landscape in Texas. His byline can be found across many websites such as ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report, and others.

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