At a small town hall in a Dallas suburb, Beto O’Rourke threw his hat into legalized gambling in Texas.
He did so by laying a few options on the table to ease the stress Texans feel around educational reform, the housing boom, and property taxes.
The solution? He made a pitch to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in Texas.
In the lead-up to this year’s gubernatorial election, O’Rourke’s pledge makes him the first of the two major candidates to openly endorse expanded gambling.
In the past few years, O’Rourke’s opponent and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has slowly changed his tune on legalized gambling. But, he’s made no definitive statement about whether he would champion the issue.
Fiscal relief for Texans through expanded gambling
In O’Rourke’s brief stop in Dallas, he told homeowners “to make sure they’re sitting down” before opening their property appraisal notices. Property taxes have been on a precipitous rise over the past few years.
Texas does not have a state property tax, but instead allows local municipalities to assess property taxes to fund:
- Police and fire
- Basic road repairs
To alleviate this pressure, O’Rourke has said that he will use gambling and sports betting revenue to pull property taxes down.
As we’ve seen in other states, legalizing gaming has resulted in massive taxable returns.
Texas is the second-most populous state in the nation. And as a sports-focused populace, could provide enormous fiscal relief for the state if it expanded gambling.
Jerry Jones and Marc Cuban have both supported and even championed legalized gambling in Texas, with Jones stating, “the writing’s on the wall,” and Cuban claiming that lifting the federal ban on gambling “doubled a franchise’s value.”
Will we see sports owners throw their weight behind O’Rourke in the months leading up to the election?
The Cowboys recently signed a deal with Blockchain.com to become the first NFL team to have a crypto partner. The NBA signed a similar crypto deal last year.
Blockchain technology has opened up an entire metaverse of online gambling. With these Blockchain deals, sports teams are setting themselves up to be a part of that future.
Will legal gambling ‘see the light of day’?
The opponents of legalized gambling like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have claimed that “it’s not an issue that’s going to see the light of day.” The Texas Republican Party’s platform even includes the phrasing:
“We oppose and call for a veto of any budget that relies on expansion of legalized gambling as a method of finance.”
Despite such vehement diction, a recent poll indicates that only 26% of Texans oppose the idea of legalizing sports betting in the state.
One also needs only to zoom out to the surrounding states to get a barometer for what the region desires. Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana have legalized casino gambling.
Louisiana and Arkansas offer legal sports betting. Texans currently file across those state lines every day, giving their money to the adjacent economies.
Or just as likely, they make the riskier choice of betting offshore.
Further, money from major out-of-state gambling proponents, notably the Las Vegas Sands PAC, have funneled money into the state in support of casino gambling and sports betting.
The argument against these trends is a moralistic one rooted in Texas’s conflicted history with gambling (a history which we have been examining on the site).
The gubernatorial election in November and the 2023 legislative session are shaping up to be heavily influenced by pro-gaming interests. In which case, gambling will likely see “the light of day” in the next year.
Beyond receiving legislative attention, legalized gambling will need a two-thirds vote in both houses to become an amendment for voters.