Leading Texas pro sports teams have sent an open letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan to encourage their endorsement of legislation to legalize online sports betting.
In the state Senate, the odds are heavily stacked against sports betting legislation.
As a result, last week the top executives of 11 major sports franchises put additional pressure on Patrick as leader of the Senate to get them to pass the initiative before the end of the current session.
Both Texas sports betting proposals in the House made it through the State Affairs Committee earlier this month. That’s a commendable achievement given that’s the furthest any gambling bill has made it in Texas. Still, both House bills have a long way to go.
Key points of the letter
In their open letter to Patrick and Phelan, the executives point out the disadvantages Texas fans face compared to sports fans in other states who can bet legally while under the protection of a regulatory framework.
As reported by Legal Sports Report, the letter also emphasizes the importance of the proposed measure to “protect Texans from the illegal, foreign sports betting market that is operating unregulated in Texas.”
The legislative proposals, as stated in the letter, would put in place “a fair and responsible system of permitting and taxation for operators.”
These proposed measures follow best practices from other states, assuring the integrity of professional sports in Texas.
The executives who signed the letter represent the following teams:
- Dallas Cowboys
- Houston Rockets
- Texas Rangers
- Houston Astros
- Houston Texans
- Dallas Mavericks
- San Antonio Spurs
- Dallas Stars
- FC Dallas
- Austin FC
- Houston Dynamo
Texas sports betting legislation’s standing in the House
Earlier this month, the House State Affairs Committee approved Rep. Jeff Leach’s House Bill 1942, a companion bill to Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s Senate Bill 715. The bill seeks to legalize online sports betting in Lone Star State. The bill sits in the House Committee on Calendars awaiting a decision that would put it on the House floor calendar.
A key component of the bill is to establish a regulatory framework with a $500,000 access fee, and a 10% tax on adjusted gross gambling revenue. The bill is accompanied by House Joint Resolution 102 which calls for a constitutional amendment to allow gambling on sporting events.
However, for an amendment to pass, the resolution would require two-thirds of both chambers to agree to it as well as a majority of Texans in a November special election.
Sports betting legislation’s position in the Senate
Whereas prospects for sports betting legislation to pass in the House are being kept alive, in the Senate, SB 715 stands on shaky ground.
Lt. Gov. Patrick, who in the past has been the biggest roadblock for the initiative, made clear that the measure would most likely stall in his chamber even though there is overwhelming evidence to indicate that Texans support the notion.
According to a poll conducted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, 69% of Texans support legislation that would legalize online as well as person-to-person sports betting.
Kolkhorst hopes that the early momentum of House sports betting bills will persuade the three-term Republican Patrick to give his blessing to legal Texas sports betting.
Chances for legislation passage dwindling
With a 19-12 majority, Republicans control the Senate.
And despite having the wind at its back with solid support from heavyweights like former Gov. Rick Perry and coalitions such as the Sports Betting Alliance, it appears the legislation just won’t have enough overall Republican support to see it through.
Furthermore, Patrick has consistently demonstrated reluctance to push legislation across the finish line that does not have overwhelming Republican support. In speaking to Chad Hasty on KFYO radio Lubbock, Patrick said, “I’m not letting the Democrats run the Senate, because if you have more Democrats voting for a bill than Republicans … that means the Democrats are running the show.”
To counter this imbalance, a potential trade-off may be looming in which the Texas House gives ground on school choice programs in exchange for Patrick’s approval of casinos and sports betting.
Phelan, a Beaumont Republican in his second session as House Speaker, indicated his willingness to allow a vote on gambling legislation in the chamber. His Houses’ budget, which included anti-school choice language, may be something he’s willing to adjust in order to advance gambling legislation beyond his chamber.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican in his third term, is also not averse to the measures. He’s called sports betting “just a form of entertainment” that he is content to leave to the Legislature.