Many places in the United States have started to loosen up their gambling laws. Texas, however, is not among them. Could that be about to change?
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In theory, by not yet making gambling legal, Texas remains in the majority. Most places in the United States have yet to make that call. But many have. What's more, an increasing number are more open to considering it. Until now, that list hasn't included Big D. But it turns out the coronavirus pandemic may convince Texas to legalize sports gambling after all.
Our deep dive into why will cover all of the following:
- Texas' longtime stance on gambling
- Why Texas might be about to change
- The impact the pandemic is having on the economy
- What lobbyists are doing to change the Texas Laws
- List of states to already legalize sports gambling
The Future of Sports Gambling in Texas
Texas' Current Gambling Laws
At present, Texas has no form of legal gambling. Neighboring places have casinos that Texans go to visit, but they still have to cross state lines to do their betting.
What's more, the local government previously hadn't given a change in much consideration. Though Texas has avoided the "Never going to happen" label that is ascribed to Utah, they leaned the way of states like Idaho and Wisconsin, neither of whom have held much dialogue on sports gambling in recent years.
And then the pandemic happened.
How The Pandemic is Impacting Texas' Stance on Gambling
Like every state in the US—and every place around the world—Texas' economy is suffering a great deal amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pretty much all of their industries are down.
Airports are taking in less money. Restaurants are receiving far fewer reservations. Much lower amounts of sales taxes are being collected. Unemployment rates are rising. The pandemic's impact isn't just severe; it's far-reaching.
Nobody knows how long it will take Texas to fully recover. Certain experts expect a vaccine to be fully deployed by May 2021, but that's an optimistic projection. Even if it turns out they're right, the economy won't immediately bounce back. There will still be a stigma against going out and traveling so long as masks are required, and the jobs that were lost won't immediately return to the market.
In fact, most of the lost jobs won't return at all. Statistics show that positions eliminated during economic downturns are usually gone for good. It all points to a more gradual recovery, even if the stock market returns to its bull trajectory right out of the gate.
That's where the legality of gambling comes in. As Doug Ramirez writes for Casino News:
The legalization of gambling would create a new industry and bring in billions of dollars from casino operators. All of the surrounding states have legalized casino industries and Texans end up crossing the border to spend their money at out-of-state casinos. Legislators are keen to pass a gambling bill that will allow Texas to keep its gambling dollars within Texas.
It makes sense to legalize casinos and sports betting at large from that standpoint. Revenues are lucrative, and they may not be pandemic-proof, but they are recession-proof. There will always be a market for gambling, both on-site and remotely.
Do Casino Developers Want to Set Up Shop in Texas?
Texas is the second-largest state by population, trailing only California. It is definitely a market casinos want to tap into.
One billionaire in the casino business stands out above the rest: Sheldon Adelson. He is the CEO of Las Vegas Sands corporation, which controls multiple casinos. He has been aggressive in trying to push through pro-gambling legislation.
Those efforts are expected to be ramped up, both by Adelson and others. Lobbyists have sensed an opening in Texas, and they're heading there in droves.
Companies interested in developing casinos elsewhere even have a vested interest in what Texas does. They're considered a domino state: If they legalize gambling, others would be presumed to follow.
Where is Gambling Already Legal in the US?
Another factor in the future of Texas' gambling laws: The increased green lights being given across the United States. Nearly half of the country now allows some form of betting. Here's the full list:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- New York
- New Hampshire
On top of all that, a handful of states are in serious talks to join the above list. This includes North Carolina, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Maine. Between the states on the verge of legalizing betting and other forms of gambling and those that already have, roughly half the US is moving in that direction.
This doesn't necessarily guarantee that Texas will follow suit. Both local and state government officials tend to lean conservative and assume a harder-line stance on gambling. But many of the offices within Texas shifted to more liberal term-holders in the latest elections. That has further emboldened lobbyists in their attempt to get the current laws changed.
When Might Gambling Be Legal in Texas?
There can be no answer to this question. We are in the middle of not just a pandemic, but coming off an election year. New policies get delayed under such circumstances.
Still, money matters. And Texas is leaving plenty of it on the table by not capitalizing on the tax revenue associated with casinos and sports betting. Chances are the economic hardship inflicted on the state by the coronavirus pandemic will prompt them to legalize gambling.
Whether that happens in 2020 or 2021 remains to be seen. But it sometime before 2022 feels realistic, if not overwhelmingly probable.
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