Any hopes that legal sports betting in Texas is a possibility this year were all but killed Saturday when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who also serves as president of the Senate, tweeted that there is no appetite in that chamber for the gambling expansion.
“We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB1942 won’t be referred,” he posted. His message came two days after HJR 102, which would send the decision on legal wagering to the voters, and its enabling legislation were passed out of the House.
Patrick has long said he doesn’t support an expansion of gambling in the Lone Star State, but stakeholders are pleased that at least some progress was made this session. Sports betting passed through the House, though casino legislation that would have allowed for eight “destination resorts” did not.
While both legal sports betting and casino gambling measures had support in the House, Patrick has consistently said that there is not enough support among Senate Republicans for him to consider entertaining either issue. Nineteen of the 31 Senate seats are filled by Republicans, and 21 votes would be needed to pass the bills. The wagering legislation that made it through the House was sponsored by Republicans and had bipartisan support.
I've said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP. I polled members this week. Nothing changed. The senate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB1942 won’t be referred.…
— Office of the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (@LtGovTX) May 13, 2023
Next opportunity: 2025
Patrick’s opposition this session makes 2025 the soonest that wagering could be legalized in Texas, as the legislature meets only in odd-numbered years. The current session is set to close May 29, and other forms of gambling expansion are likely on hold for at least as long. A House Joint Resolution that would have sent the casino decision to the voters along with its companion “destination resorts” proposal were withdrawn from the House floor Friday.
Patrick’s tweet generated more than 120 replies by Sunday afternoon, with his critics suggesting that Patrick was failing to represent the people or too focused on politics, and that Texans should be entitled to make their own decision about whether to legalize more gambling.
WHY ARE YOU SUCH A HATER. You’re suppose to represent the STATE, the people should have the absolute LIBERTY to vote on this.
— Rayao' (@UnRayao) May 14, 2023
Legal sports betting has proved a very heavy lift in the nation’s biggest states. Of the top four, only New York has legalized. California voters overwhelmingly shot down multiple legal sports betting initiatives in the 2022 election, while the fate of legal betting in Florida is currently in the hands of a federal appellate court. In both of those cases, Indian Country has had a monopoly on casino gaming and seeks the same for legal sports wagering.
Throughout the Texas legislative session, stakeholders were aware that moving any kind of gambling bill forward would be a challenge on many levels. Some states legalize because of the need for tax revenue, but Texas isn’t in that situation. In addition, none of the bills adequately address Texas’ tribal interests and there is strong opposition from religious groups in the state.
The package of Texas wagering bills would have allowed for statewide mobile betting controlled by the state’s professional sports teams and other sports entities, with the tax rate set at 10%.