Bills to legalize online sports betting in Texas are working through the Texas Legislature. Legislation in the Texas Senate is sponsored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (Senate Bill 17 and Senate Joint Resolution 39), while Rep. Jeff Leach is carrying the torch on its companion measure in the House: House Joint Resolution 102 and House Bill 1942.
Both measures have the backing of all major sports teams in Texas and the Texas Sports Betting Alliance. Cara Gustafson, public relations director for the SBA, told PlayTexas that Leach was selected as the House bill’s sponsor out of a “mutual interest.”
Leach, a Republican, represents House District 67, which includes the north Texas suburbs of Plano, Allen, Richardson and McKinney. He is serving in his fifth term.
A rising star in law and the Legislature
The legalization of Texas sports betting depends on Kolkhorst’s and Leach’s bills. A PlayTexas poll shows that most Texans support legal sports betting in the state. The legislation, however, still faces a steep climb to becoming law in The Lone Star State.
Leach has focused on protecting Texans’ rights during his terms in the Texas House. Leach, 40, went to Baylor University before studying to become a lawyer at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. He practices law at Gray Reed & McGraw LLP in Dallas, specializing in commercial and civil litigation, construction law and real estate.
Accolades within the law industry include “Friend of the Judiciary” by the State Bar of Texas and “2019 Legislator of the Year” by the Texas Civil Justice League.
As a state representative, Leach has focused on curbing property taxes and positively changing public education. Both efforts could be impacted by the legalization of sports betting.
Proposition 4, created by Leach in 2019, was passed to ban the imposition of state income tax on individuals. Some other advancements Leach has focused on include guarding free speech rights, advocating for sexual abuse and assault victims and supporting law enforcement.
Texas sports betting legislation backed by Sports Betting Alliance
Legalizing sports gambling in Texas has been an uphill battle, but support within the state is growing.
The Texas Sports Betting Alliance, an organization of operators within sports gambling and all major Texas professional sports teams, backs the current bills.
To further the group’s strength, the SBA hired former Gov. Rick Perry as a spokesperson.
“Revenue from legal mobile sports betting in Texas could bring in more than a quarter billion [dollars] in the first biennium alone,” Perry said in a video on the SBA website. “Our neighboring states are cashing in on Texans’ bets, and a smart, efficient legal framework will keep that revenue here to go toward much-needed property tax relief.”
Support from Texas Sands PAC
Miriam Adelson, the widow of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, contributed significantly to the formation of Texas Sands PAC in January 2022. It was created to support the legalization of casino gambling in Texas. The PAC has spent more than $2.3 million so far, most of it in donations to Texas political candidates.
Leach is among those. He has received $23,000 from the PAC.
Other notable recipients of money from the Sands PAC include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ($200,000) and Kolkhorst ($9,000).