The 2021 legislative session is still just beginning. Already, though, Texas lawmakers are considering a sports betting bill.
Exploring the possibility of legalizing sports betting and other forms of gambling seems to align with what Texans want. At least that’s what a new survey from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs indicates.
Gambling expansion provides new sources of Texas revenue
The survey, conducted Jan. 12-20 among 1,329 Texas adults, covered a range of issues related to the significant budgetary shortfall Texas currently faces. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic harm it has caused have forced many states to explore new sources of revenue creation, including those related to sports betting and gambling.
“Finding new sources of revenue is never easy in the Texas Legislature,” Kirk P. Watson, dean of the Hobby School and a former state senator, said in a release of the survey’s results.
That said, Watson noted that the survey revealed a “broad agreement among Texans, even across party lines, on some potential new or increased sources of funding.”
Certain proposals were disliked, such as increasing state income tax (just 18% supported) or adding sales tax to water (30% in favor). Even so, many others were popular, thereby supporting Watson’s claim.
Legalizing and taxing casino gambling was among the most-favored suggestions, earning 70% support from survey takers.
Texans support a variety of revenue-boosting ideas
Similarly popular were suggestions like a sales tax exemption for college textbooks (89%) and internet access (77%).
Taxing e-cigarettes and vaping supplies (84%) also drew support from respondents, as did closing property tax loopholes (83%) and increasing cigarette tax (72%).
The survey covered other “sin tax” ideas like legalizing and taxing marijuana, for which 66% were in favor. Such opinions align with Texans’ general support to make casino gambling legal.
Bipartisan support exists for legalizing Texas casinos
Drilling down a bit into the data did show there were some differences of opinion between the major political parties. For instance, Republicans as a group tended to be less favorable to raising taxes of any kind.
Yet the survey revealed plenty of common ground.
“On issues that could affect a large number of the state’s residents,” according to Mark P. Jones, a Hobby School senior research associate, “the survey demonstrates that there are a substantial number of areas with broad bipartisan popular support.”
The House bill currently under consideration only applies to sports betting, not casino gambling generally speaking. In fact, the legislation is quite modest in scope, only allowing a maximum of five sports betting licenses and restricting sports betting to online-only.
Perhaps surveys like the one taken by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs might encourage Texas lawmakers to entertain broader gambling legislation as they continue to seek revenue sources for the state.