On Monday, the pre-filing period began for Texas legislators. Top priorities and important battleground debates were the focus of these bills and resolutions.
Among the 875 pieces of legislation filed Monday sits Sen. Carol Alvarado’s SJR17, which would legalize casinos and sports betting in Texas.
Alvarado’s resolution mirrors the one she filed in 2021
Sen. Alvarado (D-6), who spoke with PlayTexas about the prospects of legal gaming in July, indicated that she would continue the fight to legalize gaming after her 2021 legislation died in committee.
Her 2023 legislation makes good on that promise and mirrors 2021’s legislation (SJR49).
SJR17 makes four resort casinos the centerpiece of this legislation. It also allows for smaller casinos and expanded horse and greyhound racing. Some of the specific components of the resolution include:
- Not more than four Class I gaming licenses for metropolitan areas with 2+ million people, with no metro area having more than one casino
- Not more than three Class II gaming licenses for limited casino gaming to venues with pari-mutuel horse racing licenses in metro areas with populations of 2+ million people
- Not more than two Class III gaming licenses for limited casino gaming to venues with pari-mutuel greyhound racing licenses in metro areas with populations of less than 2 million people
- A tax rate for table games of 10% of Gross Gaming Revenue; a slot tax rate of 25% of slot GGR
- Allowance for federally-recognized tribes to operate casino games and slots at tribal venues
- Requirement for investors building resort casinos in metropolitan areas of 5+ million people to make a land and development investment of at least $2 billion
- Requirement for investors building resort casinos in metropolitan areas of 2-5 million people to make a land and development investment of at least $1 billion
- Creation of the Texas Gaming Commission to oversee the licensing and development of the industry and for allocating revenue to state and local causes
Sports betting mentioned but no specifics given
As was the case in 2021, Alvarado’s legislation makes broad reference to the authorization and regulation “of the placing of wagers on sporting events.” That is as far as the current legislation goes to address sports betting. It makes no reference to online or retail sports betting.
As more information comes to light, we’ll update this story with specific details about sports betting logistics.
Abbott’s softening is in line with Alvarado’s legislation
In the weeks before this year’s midterm, Gov. Abbott, one of the major hurdles to be cleared in legalizing gaming in the state, announced his interest in casino resorts. This announcement represented a softening in his opposition to legal gambling.
The statement released through a spokesperson indicated his interest in hearing debate about “professional entertainment options.” This language is in keeping with Sen. Alvarado’s vision of upscale resort casinos to rival and outdo those in neighboring Louisiana and Oklahoma.
While Abbott’s signature is needed for Alvarado’s legislation to make it to the 2023 ballot, he’s not the main hurdle. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate, is.
He sets committees, controls floor debate, and can bury or prop up any given piece of legislation. As we’ve discussed at PlayTexas, the pathway for gaming legalization in the state runs through him.