Texas lawmakers may not seem inclined to expand gaming or legalize sports betting, but that doesn’t mean residents of the state agree with them.
According to a Dallas Morning News/University of Texas-Tyler poll released this week, 57% of residents want casino gambling and 43% support legal sports betting. In terms of casino gambling, 29% are opposed and 13% are ambivalent. On the subject of sports betting, 26% are opposed and 31% are ambivalent.
Most interesting about the poll, wrote the Dallas Morning News, is that evangelicals, who have traditionally been opposed to a gambling expansion, made up 52% of those who support legal casino games, and 44% of those who support legal sports betting are evangelicals.
The poll was released in the middle of a legislative session during which eight bills related to gambling and sports betting related have been filed, but only two have gotten committee assignments.
Bills aren’t moving in legislature
HB 1121, which has been assigned to the House State Affairs Committee but does not yet have a hearing date, would allow for statewide mobile sports betting with a cap of five licenses. Gross gaming revenue would be taxed at 6.25% and the legal age to wager would be 18. The bill does not allow for betting at brick-and-mortar locations. HB 393, which is assigned to the same committee, defines what a bet is for the purposes of sports betting.
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The most recent bill filed would allow for major professional teams to partner with sports betting operators to operate wagering.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Texans already spend up to $2.5 billion gambling, which is legal in both neighboring Louisiana and Oklahoma. But unlike in other states where lawmakers are seeking to keep revenue from gaming in-state as well as develop new revenue streams, Texas lawmakers appear unmoved by voter interest in wagering.
Pro teams favor legal wagering
Legal sports wagering has been in the news in Texas for months. Late last year, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson reportedly invested $10 million in lobbying efforts to legalize casino gaming and sports betting. Adelson died in January, but his company has continued with the efforts. In addition to that, five Texas professional teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, in February voiced their support for legal sports betting.
But even though voters, pro teams, and the gaming lobby are having their say, it appears lawmakers aren’t listening. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick last month essentially pronounced gambling legalization dead when he said sports betting won’t “see the light of day in this session.” Lawmakers appear to be following the Republican.
Legal sports betting in Texas would require a constitutional amendment, meaning that voters, in the end, would make the decision.