Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, Rep. Jeff Leach File Texas Online Sports Betting Bills

Written By Matt Schoch on February 6, 2023 - Last Updated on March 7, 2023
Texas Online Sports Betting Bills Hit Austin

As expected, bills to legalize online sports betting in Texas will officially be considered this year in Austin.

Bills were filed in the Texas Senate and House by Republicans on Monday seeking to regulate online sports betting in Texas. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (Brenham) and Rep. Jeff Leach (Plano) filed the bills.

Kolkhorsts bills were Senate Joint Resolution 39, the constitutional amendment, and Senate Bill 715, the enabling legislation. On the house side, Leach’s bills were House Joint Resolution 102, and House Bill 1942, the enabling legislation.

Second time around for online sports betting legislation

The 2021 legislative session marked the first time Texas lawmakers filed online sports betting legislation. With the support of the nascent Sports Betting Alliance, lobbyists promoted the revenue generated by sports betting and identified the pitfalls of illegal gambling.

In an interview with PlayTexas, Cara Gustafson, spokesperson for the SBA explained that in 2021 the legislature had “no bandwidth” for sports betting. They were coping with COVID protections and the devastating winter storm that knocked out the state’s electrical grid.

While sports betting legislation received a committee hearing in the House, no legislation made it to the floor for debate, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate, made the scorching proclamation that sports betting legislation “would never see the light of day.”

When the 2021 session ended in May, the SBA continued its work, educating lawmakers on the perils of the offshore market and the billions of dollars Texans send to illegal sports books every year. While lawmakers have not typically been moved by the revenue created from sports betting, the idea of money flowing out of the state to illegal websites has struck a chord with many. It’s this argument that Gustafson and the SBA hopes will gain traction in 2023.

Texas pro sports teams, sports betting apps behind legislation

In a release, the alliance — which includes Texas professional sports franchises, sports leagues, racetracks and betting platforms — expressed support for the bills.

The news release quoted Kolkhorst:

“I introduced SB 715 and SJR 39 because Texas needs to bring security and safety into the world of mobile sports betting.

“It makes sense to reign in all of the illegal offshore betting and keep sports wagering funds here in Texas. This is a sensible plan, which is why so many states have already passed similar legislation. As a former collegiate athlete, I respect the purity of sports and feel SB 715 and SJR 39 will promote integrity through transparent licensing, permitting, and reporting requirements. Most important of all, it will stop underage offshore betting that is happening across Texas today.”

Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen), a consistent proponent of expanding legal gambling, is a joint author of one of the Senate bills.

The alliance also quoted supporting statements from officials with the Houston Astros, Dallas Cowboys, FC Dallas, Texas Rangers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Texans and Houston Rockets.

Former Gov. Rick Perry is a spokesperson for the alliance, which includes four of the nation’s top sports betting operators and another, Fanatics Sportsbook, which hopes to enter the market soon.

Texas not alone in considering online sports betting this year

Upon passage, Texas would join many states in regulating online sports betting, resulting from a 2018 US Supreme Court decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. Ohio, which launched Jan. 1, is the most recent state to launch. Massachusetts, expected to launch by next month, should be next.

Other states considering online sports betting legislation this year include Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri and North Carolina.

Gambling will be a hot topic this year in Austin, as Sen. Carol Alvarado again recently proposed legislation for resort-style casinos and retail sports betting in the state.

PlayTexas will have more on this developing story later and throughout our continued coverage.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt Schoch has seen the casino industry from all sides. From a leading analyst for Michigan’s online market to his time as a blackjack dealer in Chicago, Schoch knows what’s ahead for Texas. Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. Schoch has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates, “Ypsi’s Emoni.” As a senior content manager for PlayTexas, Schoch helps lead coverage of the Texas gambling industry.

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