Texas Sports Betting Legislative Efforts Dead Until 2023

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 24, 2021 - Last Updated on February 17, 2023

It’s time to put the Texas sports betting bills out to pasture. There’s no hope for them making a momentum shift in 2021.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa tells PlayTexas that his sports betting legislation won’t advance this session, which ends May 31.

With House deadlines already passed, a bill needs to start in the Senate. The Sports Betting Alliance held out hope of the joint resolution putting sports betting in front of voters gaining miracle momentum in the Senate. But that isn’t going to happen.

“This was a very unique session of the Texas legislature with challenges from COVID-19 and the February winter storm,” Hinojosa said. “This issue was not prioritized by leadership and, in the end, we ran out of time.”

Sports betting never got momentum in Texas Senate

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made it clear from the get-go that Senate leadership had no interest in sports betting legislation this session.

Patrick contended that sports betting “wouldn’t see the light of day” in the Senate this session.

He was right in that assertion, but not in doubting that any Senator would file a sports betting bill.

Hinojosa, who has served in the Texas legislature for 40 years, took up the cause. Hinojosa filed S 736 and SJR 39.

The Texas Sports and Entertainment Recovery Act authorizes retail and online sports wagering for major horse racetracks, and professional sports teams from Major League Baseball, the NBANHLNFL, and Major League Soccer.

The joint resolution gave voters the option to empower the legislature to “authorize and regulate wagers on sporting events.”

Companion bills received a positive hearing in the House, where they might have advanced through committee if other issues didn’t take over the short session.

Next hope for Texas sports betting in two years

Getting all the major Texas professional sports teams united behind sports betting legislation was the big advancement of this session.

The Sports Betting Alliance launched with backing from the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Texans, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Stars, and others. Those organizations hold a lot of sway in the Lone Star State.

“I think the Sports Betting Alliance, with backing from all the major professional sports teams in Texas, definitely helped lay the groundwork for the future,” said Cara Gustafson, spokesperson for the Alliance. “In the future, if we continue this, I think we’ll start out with better name recognition and we’ll know the questions and concerns expressed by lawmakers. We’ll definitely be in better space than before these bills got filed.”

Unfortunate, the Alliance won’t be able to carry this momentum over into 2022. The Texas legislature only meets in odd years.

House champion Rep. Dan Huberty is up for re-election next year. Hinojosa’s term doesn’t end until 2024. So he plans to try again with sports betting legislation in 2023.

“We look forward to advancing this issue next session,” Hinojosa said. “We continue to see strong public support for giving Texans an opportunity to decide for themselves if they want to regulate sports betting, as illegal offshore platforms are currently generating over $5 billion in illegal bets each year in Texas.”

Photo by AP / David Goldman
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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