Texas Sports Betting Hopes Dim As House Deadline Passes

Posted By Matthew Kredell on May 11, 2021

The deadline for bills to advance through Texas House committees passed Monday without movement of sports betting legislation.

Rep. Dan Huberty’s sports wagering implementation bill H 2070 and constitutional amendment HJR 97 failed to progress.

A coalition of Texas sports teams pushed for the bill to help reconnect with fans coming out of the pandemic. The Sports Betting Alliance still hopes to pass a joint resolution putting the legalization of sports betting in front of voters in November.

However, for the joint resolution to stand a chance, the Senate now needs to take the lead.

“We are running out of time for anything to happen in the Senate,” said Cara Gustafson, spokesman for the Sports Betting Alliance. “Getting the resolution passed would definitely be a win.”

Senate unlikely to take up sports betting this session

From the beginning of the session, the Texas Senate seemed like a dead zone for sports betting legalization hopes. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asserted that sports betting wouldn’t “see the light of day this session” in the Senate.

And it hasn’t. While Sen. Juan Hinojosa introduced companion bills to those in the House, they did not get a hearing.

A joint resolution seeking voter approval for commercial casinos in Texas, along with authorizing sports wagering, also made no progress. Sen. Carol Alvarado and Rep. John Kuempel threw in the towel on that effort this week.

The Senate acting on the sports betting resolution also seems unlikely. The Senate has until May 26 to consider the joint resolution, though it would need to act earlier for it to get consideration in the House.

Texas sports betting got positive committee hearing

The failure to get a committee vote in the House is disappointing after Huberty got an encouraging response from the State Affairs Committee last month.

Sports teams and horse racetracks eligible for licenses under H 2070 testified in support of the bills. An executive of the Texas Rangers went so far as to say his team would be at a competitive disadvantage without sports betting.

Two lawmakers spoke up about getting inclusion of Texas Indian tribes and women’s sports teams. Huberty pledged to work with them on amendments. Only one lawmaker expressed doubt over if Texas should regulate sports betting.

“I think we’ve built awareness that illegal offshore betting is already happening,” Gustafson said. “I don’t think people realized how prevalent it was.”

The positive hearing seemed to set the stage for the committee to advance the bill. However, controversial voting bills took the full attention of the Texas legislature in recent weeks.

“A lot of things kind of got pushed to the wayside last week because of SB 7, the voting bill,” Gustafson said. “Certain bills suck all the air out of the room, but we’re just going to keep focusing on working to at least let voters decide what happens next.”

Wait till next (next) year

The importance of getting at least the constitutional amendment started this year is that the Texas legislature only meets in odd-numbered years. The next chance to pass sports betting legislation comes in 2023.

Texas is a conservative state when it comes to gambling. There’s a reason it doesn’t yet have commercial casinos.

But Texas also is a state brimming with sports fandom, which means the interest in sports betting is high. Texans want to bet on the Dallas Cowboys, and they already are doing so.

Conservative states taking up sports betting legalization often have better luck the second time around. With all the professional sports teams on board, discussion of sports wagering is only expected to increase in the future.

“I certainly don’t see sports betting slowing down or just disappearing in the national landscape or Texas,” Gustafson said. “At least these conversations are happening now. I think we’ll keep talking about this whether it’s this session or next session, and hopefully, we’ll talk about it in the November elections.”

Photo by Xu Wang | Dreamstime.com
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