While lawmakers in The Lone Star State are taking their sweet time to legalize sports betting, Texans are finding plenty of ways to get their gambling fix – some legal, others not.
According to estimates, the volume of illegal, offshore and unregulated sports betting within Texas ranges between $5.4 billion and $21.6 billion each year. Add to that the $2.5 billion Texans are spending on gambling operations in neighboring states each year and you’ll quickly realize Texans aren’t gambling shy at all.
So, which region in Texas boasts the most crazed sports betting fans?
Houstonians flood Louisiana to place bets on sports
Sports betting in Texas isn’t permitted, but efforts are underway to change that this session in the Texas Legislature. It’s not specifically illegal for residents to place bets with unregulated offshore betting sites, risky as that may be. Betting on horse and dog races in the state is also legal.
Scores of Texans cross the border into Louisiana every year to place bets on sports. It would be hard to find a stronger connection between two states than the one shared by Texas and Louisiana. The two have much in common. Both possess a love or hatred for certain sports teams. And they both share a deep affinity for Cajun food and music.
Texas has also been good to Louisiana sports betting. Since Texans aren’t allowed to wager on sports in their own state, many cross the border to place bets. West Louisiana, for instance, draws in mobile and retail sports bettors and casino business from many east Texas regions.
Lake Charles casinos like L’Auberge Casino Resort, Golden Nugget and Horseshoe Casino, all located in West Louisiana, have seen their businesses flourish on account of Texan bettors. These resorts are doing so well that they’re sold out most weekends, with an estimated 85% of their business coming out of Texas.
In September alone, the two riverboat casinos in Lake Charles reported gross revenues of $31.9 million (Golden Nugget) and $30.3 million (L’Auberge).
Mattress Mack known for massive sports bets in Louisiana
It’s difficult to gauge exactly how many Texans travel to The Pelican State to engage in sports betting. But according to data provided by the geolocation firm GeoComply, Houstonians make up the bulk of them. That includes America’s most notorious gambler, Jim “Mattress Mack“ McIngvale.
The 71-year-old furniture salesman has driven across the state line into Bayou country many times to place multi-million-dollar bets. He bet a total of $9.5 million on the Cincinnati Bengals to win last year’s Super Bowl and came up empty. You would think that kind of loss would suppress his appetite for betting. Quite the opposite; it only whetted it.
Here are some of Mattress Mack’s most notable wagers in 2022, all losers.
- Lost $9.5 million on Cincinnati in Super Bowl
- Took a hit of $2 million on the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl at 20-1 odds
- Lost $700,000 on the Tennessee Titans to win Super Bowl (+800 Future)
- Squandered $6.15 million on Alabama to win the College National Championship at +130 odds.
McIngvale has also bet a number of times on his hometown baseball team, the Houston Astros, to win the World Series. Last November, he had reason to celebrate. His team won the franchise’s second World Series title against the Philadelphia Phillies.
That win resulted in Mattress Mack taking home $75 million – widely reported to be the largest payout in US sports betting history. Mack’s winning bet also single-handedly sent Louisiana’s sportsbook industry into a losing month in November.
With such a massive passion for sports betting, it’s no wonder that sports bars and sports blogs have mushroomed across Houston.
No fans are more crazed than fans of ‘America’s team’
Some will argue that Dallas is the hotbed for sports betting in Texas, and they could very well be right. The city represents professional sports teams in all the major North American sports. And with a population of 1.33 million, there’s plenty of wagering going on.
The Dallas Cowboys of the NFL are without a doubt the most popular team in the region, possibly in the entire US. There’s no question that thousands of fans in Dallas are placing bets with offshore sportsbooks.
Former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant may have been one of those bettors. He famously wagered $10,000 on the Cowboys to beat the Bengals in an early-season game last year. He never disclosed where and when he placed the wager, begging the question of whether it was a legal bet or not.
That bet prompted a slew of other celebrities and former Cowboys players to also get in on the betting action. Mattress Mack lost another $2 million when the Cowboys lost to the 49ers 19-12 on Jan. 22.
It’s still illegal to place bets on sports in Oklahoma, or Dallas residents would likely wager millions of dollars a year at the Winstar World Casino and Resort and Choctaw Casino Resort. The casinos are two of the most profitable in the US thanks mainly to Texans driving up from the Dallas area.
Besides Dallas’ three professional sports teams, the city is home to numerous college sports teams, like Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University, which Dallas residents also love to bet on … mainly through offshore betting sites.
Dallas is epicenter of efforts to legalize sports betting in Texas
Dallas appears to be ground zero for the push to legalize sports betting in Texas. In a recent interview with 105.3 The Fan – a prominent sports radio station serving Dallas-Fort Worth – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones again made the case for Texas to legalize sports betting.
Besides The Fan, Dallas also has a ton of other sports broadcasting stations like KTCK -The Ticket, which is the flagship station of the Dallas Cowboys. Their coverage of sports betting news is unrivaled and immensely helpful to sports bettors in the region.
Arlington’s passionate esports fans
And then there is esports, the fastest-growing spectator sport in the country. In 2018, a 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art esports stadium was built in Arlington, within walking distance of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys stadiums.
With its proximity to nearby venues as well as the DFW airport, the stadium has ignited huge interest in esports from fans of other pastimes. It’s also the largest esports venue in the US. It has become a Mecca for esports fans around the world.
The combination of traditional sports and esports in one entertainment hub has created an exciting environment for sports bettors.
While the esports betting market isn’t as big as the sports betting one, insider analysts believe it could reach a global value of over $13 billion by 2025. That’s quite a hike from 2021’s valuation of $9.7 million.
It’s worth noting that esports fans tend to be younger than viewers of traditional sports. That means many might not be of legal age to place wagers. Though, by the time Texas finally legalizes sports betting, they could be senior citizens.
Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex takes the cake as most sports-betting obsessed region in the state
After analyzing the data, it looks as though the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area with its myriad of college and pro sports teams as well as the most listened-to sports radio stations boasts the most die-hard sports betting fans in Texas.