Lt. Gov. Patrick Squashes Texas Sports Betting Dreams

Written By Jason Schaumburg on May 15, 2023 - Last Updated on September 26, 2023
Closing door signifies sports betting is dead this year

In the span of about 24 hours, gambling expansion in Texas went from having little hope to having no hope.

After efforts to bring resort casinos to Texas died in the Texas House on Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared Saturday the Texas Senate won’t “waste time” on sports betting.

The House on Thursday passed House Joint Resolution 102, which would legalize online sports betting in Texas through a constitutional amendment, and its enabling legislation, House Bill 1942. However, that appears to be the last bit of good news for gambling expansion proponents, and all eyes now turn to 2025.

Climb was always steep for Texas sports betting

Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate as lieutenant governor, has consistently warned that gambling expansion faced roadblocks in the upper chamber. He has said he will not call any bill in the Senate that does not have predominantly Republican support. He reiterated as much Saturday via Twitter.

“I’ve said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP,” Patrick tweeted. “I polled members this week. Nothing changed. The [S]enate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB1942 won’t be referred.”

Patrick doubled down Sunday with a second tweet:

“Texas is a red state. Yet the House vote on sports betting was carried by a [Democratic] majority,” Patrick tweeted. “The Texas Senate doesn’t pass bills with GOP in the minority. The GOP majority guides our path. HJR102 also will not be referred. Can’t waste committee [and] floor time in the last days.”

HB 1942 is the legislation that would have established the parameters for a Texas sports betting industry if voters had been allowed to approve a constitutional amendment in the November election.

Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, led the sports betting charge in the House. He has hammered home the concept that sports betting is already happening in Texas. It’s just happening illegally and through offshore sportsbooks.

“This bill makes our unsafe and illegal market legal and safe,” Leach said Thursday. “It regulates it. It makes it safer.”

HB 1942 provided 16 online sports betting licenses to Texas sports franchises or facilities. It taxed operators at a 15% rate, and 98% of tax revenue would have been directed to property tax relief.

HJR 102 passed the House, 101-42. HB 1942 passed, 82-51. Both appear to be dead in the Senate based on Patrick’s weekend tweets.

Texas casino bills die in House

Legislation to open resort-style Texas casinos met its fate Friday, when neither House Joint Resolution 155 nor House Bill 2843 were called for a final vote.

“I do know when it’s time to fold ’em,” Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said on the House floor when HJR 155 was postponed for consideration until 2027.

Hours earlier, the third reading and vote on HB 2843, the enabling legislation, also was postponed.

HJR 155 would have allowed voters to approve legalizing Texas casinos through a constitutional amendment ballot question in the November election. HB 2843 would have allowed for resort casinos in Texas to be licensed through pari-mutuel race tracks in major metropolitan areas.

Constitutional amendments need a two-thirds majority in each chamber to advance. HJR 155 received a 92-51 majority approval Wednesday in its second reading, eight votes shy of the threshold. Geren could not find the votes to advance the resolution before Friday’s crossover deadline.

What’s next for Texas sports betting?

The Texas Legislature meets every two years, so the next opportunity for Texas to legalize sports betting is 2025.

The process will have to start all over. The Texas Constitution must be amended for legal sports betting to happen in Texas. The state does not allow for citizen initiatives for constitutional amendments. Lawmakers must regroup and pass a constitutional amendment with a two-thirds majority in each chamber. That, again, will be a high bar to clear.

Until then, Texans will continue crossing the state border to place legal sports bets in Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico, along with betting on illegal and unregulated offshore sportsbooks.

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Jason Schaumburg

Jason Schaumburg is a content manager for Catena Media, including at PlayTexas. He has more than 20 years of journalism experience and spent nearly four years as communications director at the Illinois Lottery. Jason graduated from Northern Illinois University and remains the last student-journalist to cover the men’s basketball program in the NCAA tournament.

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