Few states have sports so ingrained with the culture quite like Texas.
From high school to college football, up to the professional ranks with historic franchises such as the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, Texas stands as one of the most sports-crazed states in the country.
It would make sense, then, for the second-most populous state to capitalize by launching legalized sports betting.
When it comes to gaming expansion, though, a Lone Star State slogan seems to reflect lawmakers’ attitudes toward the matter: Don’t mess with Texas.
Infamous as one of the least gambling-friendly states in the nation, Texas has not come close to the finish line with gaming expansion bills.
That said, of late, movement has emerged to make regulated sports betting a priority in Texas.
Sen. Juan Hinojosa tells PlayTexas that his sports betting legislation won’t advance this session, which ends May 31.
Sports betting finally got a hearing in the Texas legislature, and the reception was warmer than expected.
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale placed $1 million on Houston to win March Madness, marking one of the largest tourney bets on record.
As the Texas Legislature only meets during odd years, lawmakers only have so much time to consider proposed legislation before adjourning for two years.
While Texas has historically been opposed to gaming expansion of any kind, bills to do so still emerge each session. But, again, Texas has not shown much interest in embracing change.
Time and again, bills aimed at gambling expansion, such as legalizing sports betting, have been rebuffed by lawmakers. Whether because of party affiliation, disagreements surrounding the execution of a bill or simple moral beliefs, the cycle occurs seemingly every session.
In early 2021, owners of five Texas professional franchises teamed up to urge state lawmakers to legalize sports betting. The likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Texas Rangers and FC Dallas came forward to support a bill that would green-light regulated wagering.
This came on the heels of Las Vegas Sands Corporation making a huge push to bring casinos to Texas. The gaming company built a high-powered team of more than 50 heavy-hitting lobbyists to help convince the Lone Star State to expand its gambling industry, which could help ease the budgetary shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if a bill makes it out of committee, House or Senate, it would not be until November 2022 that sports betting could potentially be legalized. This means a launch would likely not occur until early 2023. Why such a long wait?
Texas law mandates that any effort at gambling expansion requires voters to approve a constitutional amendment.
Such was the case in 1991, when voters signed off on the creation of the Texas Lottery, which sold its first tickets just a few months later.
So if a bill to legalize sports betting passes through the capital and onto a ballot, voters would have their say in November 2022 at the earliest.
However, other jurisdictions have integrated regulated wagering with their state lotteries. The likes of Tennessee and Virginia, for example, offer online sports betting overseen by their respective lotteries.
Theoretically, if the Texas Lottery is tasked with regulating, could legal sports betting be introduced to the Lone Star State without a constitutional amendment? That would be up for debate if legislation called for lottery involvement.
Where and how Texans can legally bet on sports depends on the structure adopted by state lawmakers.
If efforts by Las Vegas Sands are successful, resulting in Texas giving the go-ahead to build casinos, those properties could become likely spots for retail sportsbooks.
Without introducing commercial casinos, the only brick-and-mortar casino option available for retail betting would be Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, a tribal property operated by the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe.
Maybe Texas decides against commercial casinos and instead integrates racetracks located in the state. Such legislation would allow those facilities to construct retail sportsbooks. The likes of Texas Motor Speedway, a renowned track for NASCAR events, and Circuit of The Americas, a destination for Formula 1, would then theoretically become available.
The same could be said for horse and greyhound racing facilities, should they receive authorization. If allowable, retail sportsbooks could crop up at one of six such racetracks.
Another model shown in other jurisdictions includes the state lottery. In Virginia and Tennesee, for example, those respective lotteries regulate sports betting and allows for multiple online sportsbooks to operate within state lines. This creates a competitive market that allows the state to get more bang for their buck, as it were.
If tasking the Texas Lottery to oversee legal sports betting, perhaps the state would incorporate lottery retailers. This would not be a ground-breaking decision. In Montana, retailers can house self-service kiosks for customers to place legal bets on sports.
As it stands, Texas residents will have to travel out of state to place legal sports bets.
Some 20 miles east of the Texas border is Bossier City, Louisiana. Several casinos call Bossier City home and will be able to host retail sportsbooks once Louisiana launches legal sports betting. Voters in Bossier Parish approved the legalization. Now it just awaits a regulatory framework from lawmakers before the industry can go live.
As for active and regulated sports betting, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, features brick-and-mortar wagering. That said, the facility is over 100 miles northeast of the nearest Texas border. Looking west, Santa Ana Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico, first started accepting retail sports bets in 2018. The property rests nearly 250 miles away from the closest Texas border.
Other than that, Texans would need to take part in offshore sportsbooks, which isn’t recommended. As they aren’t regulated, these sites don’t offer as many consumer protections. For example, if your offshore betting account disappears, there is no legal recourse to retrieve the money within that account.
In January 2021, Rep. Harold Dutton proposed an online-only sports betting bill. The proposal emerged with the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott and owners of professional sports franchises like the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers.
The bill would create a regulated wagering industry similar to Tennessee, where only mobile betting operates. Texas would issue a maximum of five sports betting licenses at a time, which is far fewer than would seem sufficient for the state to truly capitalize on such a populous state.
In addition, the bill prohibits wagering on Texas colleges and universities.
While the proposal has vast support, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick noted shortly thereafter that, regarding the legalization of sports betting: “It’s not even an issue that’s going to see the light of day this session.”
This all came two years after Rep. Eddie Lucio III filed a 15-page bill to green-light online sports betting, overseen by the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation. This bill allowed for wagering on professional and college sports. That proposal, like others before it, died in committee.
Any effort to legalize sports betting would need a two-thirds vote in the Texas House and Senate, meaning 21 of 31 votes in the House and 100 of 150 in the Senate. After that, the voters would need to approve.
Such a task seems daunting in Texas. Of course, if you don’t try, you can’t win.
No. Lawmakers currently face a proposal to ultimately change that answer, one that would create an online-only sports betting industry. But until a bill actually receives approval from the House and Senate, and ultimately the voters, Texas will continue to be without legal online sports betting.
Determining a timeline is difficult in Texas. Lawmakers are mulling over a proposal to legalize online sports betting. If it succeeds in gaining enough House and Senate support, the proposal would then face voters in November 2022.
But this is all assuming things go well. It could be that Texas sticks to the status quo and rejects gaming expansion.
It would seem a given that any bill to legalize sports betting would allow for wagering on any of Texas’ 11 professional franchises playing in the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS.
In addition, it would make sense for the state to allow for wagering on college events, especially those involving Texas teams. That said, the latest proposal would prohibit betting on Texas colleges and universities.
As with most jurisdictions that have legalized sports betting, Texas would likely set the minimum age to bet at 21 years old.
It is not recommended. Using offshore sportsbooks may seem like a good alternative, but these sites do not guarantee the same consumer protections offered by legal sportsbooks. If your account disappears, there’s no legal recourse to obtain the funds therein. In addition, there have been instances of not being paid winnings.
While the state has had issues with daily fantasy sports operators in the past, there appears to be no issues with Texans participating in DFS contests anymore. DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo operate in the Lone Star State.