Texas Sports betting advocates are jockeying to bring legal sports betting to the floor of the Texas State Legislature in 2023.
Efforts by the Sports Betting Alliance and legislators like Sen. Carol Alvarado have already initiated the debate that will carry into the upcoming legislative session. Sen. Alvarado, for her part, has pre-filed SJR-17, which would legalize casino gaming in the state as well as sports betting.
The broad language of the resolution led many to wonder what forms of sports betting the resolution would include: retail, online, or both.
SJR-17 will only address retail sportsbooks
In speaking with Sen. Alvarado’s campaign through email, the senator explained that her legislation will only address retail sportsbetting.
“SJR 17 only addresses retail sports betting. Anything else would have to be decided by the legislature.”
This decision leaves room for online sports betting legislation to be filed by someone else with input from the Sports Betting Alliance. Dan Huberty who sponsored the same legislation, HB 2070 in 2021, did not seek reelection so a new sponsor is in the works.
It also maintains focus on casino gaming. Retail sportsbooks would likely be located in the casinos Alvarado’s legislation specifies. This decision is in keeping with findings from a PlayTexas survey that found that 65% of Texans support gambling expansion.
That survey has been re-affirmed by another survey, given in Jan, 2023. The University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs found that 75% of Texans support gambling expansion with 69% supporting some form of sports betting.
Alvarado’s legislation comes amid thawing opposition
Recently, Gov. Abbott has expressed an interest in hearing debate over upscale resort casinos, which are the focus of Alvarado’s legislation. As well, former Gov. Rick Perry has come out as a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance.
These two represent the thawing of opposition by the Texas Republican Party towards legal gambling. The missing piece in this puzzle is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees, and participates actively in, the State Senate. His approval would knock down perhaps the biggest hurdle to the passage of legal gambling legislation.
Former Gov. Rick Perry is a close friend of the Lt. Gov. and some speculate that he might bend the ear of Patrick towards a more favorable opinion of legal gambling in some form.
Less than two months before State Legislature convenes
On Jan. 10, 2023 the Texas State Legislature will convene in Austin for roughly three months of work. The legislature which meets biennially will begin by shoring up standing and ad hoc committees and then sending legislation to committees for preliminary readings.
If legislation makes it out of committee, it will then head to the floor for main debates. If it is upvoted, it will repeat the process in the other house before being sent along to the governor’s desk for a final signature.