The legislative effort to bring mobile sports betting sites to the Lone Star State is officially underway.
Legislation that would not only legalize sports betting in Texas, but authorize it via phones, laptops, and other mobile devices, was filed on Monday in the state’s House of Representatives and Senate.
Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Republican Rep. Jeff Leach introduced the various bills and resolutions that must pass the legislature and earn the governor’s approval before event wagering can legally begin.
“I introduced SB 715 and SJR 39 because Texas needs to bring security and safety into the world of mobile sports betting,” Sen. Kolkhorst said in a press release. “It makes sense to rein in all of the illegal offshore betting and keep sports wagering funds here in Texas.”
It's all happening
The news was quickly trumpeted by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, the coalition of professional sports franchises, leagues, racetracks, and sportsbook operators supporting the legislation. The group includes the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, DraftKings, and the Texas Motor Speedway, among others.
The Sports Betting Alliance indicated last year that it was interested in taking another run at bringing online sports betting to Texas. The legislation introduced on Monday could also have to compete with another proposal for retail sports betting in the state.
“Sports betting is going to happen whether it is regulated or not,” Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said in the release. “Rather than having Texans betting illegally through unknown companies in foreign countries, this bill will allow controls and safeguards for sports betting in Texas while generating significant revenue that will be used to reduce everyone’s property taxes in Texas.”
Monday’s announcement signals the start of the legislative drive to bring legal sports betting to one of the great untapped markets in the United States. Texas has a population that is second to only California among U.S. states, which, along with its big appetite for sports, makes it an attractive destination for sportsbook operators.
The industry has thus far failed to break into the Texas market, though.
Part of the problem has been the relatively short window with which to pass legislation in Austin. Regular sessions are only supposed to last 140 days at most and only happen in odd-numbered years. The state's constitution would need amending as well, which requires two-thirds of the legislature to approve the proposed change and then a majority of voters to do the same at the ballot box.
Putting it to the people
However, Texas lawmakers are under growing pressure to legalize sports betting as more and more of their peers in other states do so and as the state’s influential sports franchises have been vocal about their desire to get something done.
The Texas Lottery Commission would be the state’s regulator under the proposed legislation. Professional sports organizations and racetracks in the state could apply for a mobile sports betting license and partner with an operator such as FanDuel to offer wagering on their behalf.
Bettors would have to be 21 and older to wager, according to the proposed legislation. Mobile sports betting operators would be subject to a 10% tax on their adjusted revenue, which would not include any wagers made using free bets or other promotions.
“A legal and regulated sports betting market is what’s best for Texas and I applaud Senator Kolkhorst and Representative Leach for filing this legislation,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in Monday’s release. “It will give Texans the ability to decide for themselves if they want this activity safely regulated or continue to be conducted in the shadows by out-of-state betting platforms.”