Two Major Sports Betting Initiatives Pass Texas House Committee

While the bills still have high hurdles to clear, this is the furthest that gambling-related bills have ever made it through the Lone Star State's legislature.

Apr 4, 2023 • 13:39 ET • 4 min read
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Two sets of bills that could make legal sports betting a reality in Texas passed the Texas House State Affairs Committee on Monday.

HB 2843 and HJR 155 would allow destination casino resorts in the Lone Star State and would also allow retail sports betting. The other set of bills — HJR 102 and HB 1942 — would specifically legalize online sports betting sites to be regulated by the Texas Lottery Commission.

Both proposals passed the House State Affairs Committee by a vote of 9-3, without comment or amendment. Republican representatives Shelby Slawson of Stephenville, Will Metcalf of Conroe, and John Smithee of Amarillo voted against both initiatives.

Still a long way to go

The related casino bills have strong support from the Las Vegas Sands. Prior to his 2021 death, Sheldon Adelson started the push for casinos in Texas. It was thought that Adelson’s personal involvement with the Republican Party — and vast political war chest — might finally move the Texas GOP off its anti-gambling stance. While the Sands has continued to spend millions on the casino initiative, it doesn’t have quite the same leverage without Adelson.

The partner online sports betting bills have their own set of heavyweight supporters. Former Governor Rick Perry has been a spokesman for the Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) since November. Texas SBA members include sports betting companies such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Barstool Sportsbook. Nearly every professional Texas sports team is also an SBA member, from the NFL's Dallas Cowboys to the MLS' Austin FC. 

Either initiative would require approval by two-thirds of each legislative body before going before Texas voters.

The Senate hurdle

Meanwhile, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick begs to differ.

“[Rep. Jeff Leach, the sponsor of the online sports betting legislation] is a good friend and a good man,” said Patrick during an appearance on the Chad Hasty Show last month. “He can do what he wants in the House. But we don't have the votes in the Senate as we sit here today.” 

Patrick presides over the Senate and is a powerful and longtime opponent of gambling expansion in Texas. The only weak link for Patrick is revenue, as online sports betting in Texas would initially generate $500,000 per license, renewable after three years for $100,000. There would also be a 10% tax rate, with the majority going to the state.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has designated property tax relief as an emergency item for the current legislative session. Meanwhile, the revenue generated by legalizing online sports betting would go a long way to pay for Abbott’s initiative.

Both sets of bills will now make their way to the Calendars Committee, which is mostly just a procedural step before going to the House floor for a second reading.

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