Poll Shows Over 75 Percent of Voters Support 'Increase' in Texas Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 26, 2023 07:00 PM
Poll Shows Over 75 Percent of Voters Support 'Increase' in Texas Sports Betting

Are you ready for sports betting in Texas to finally be legalized? Well, if you are, you can count yourself among the majority—the vast majority.

A recent poll conducted by the University of Houston found that over 75 percent of voters in The Lone Star State support legal Texas sports betting in some form or another. That number is staggering. It isn't just a consensus. It's an overwhelming majority.

These findings could not come at a better time for sports betting enthusiasts, either. The 2023 Texas legislative sessions started on January 10, and the fate of gambling has been among the most hot-button issues. A new Texas sports betting bill has already been unveiled, and lawmakers are expected to give it serious consideration prior to the legislative meetings adjourning after May 29.

To what end this poll could impact votes in the House of Representatives and Senate isn't quite clear. But policymakers, in theory, are supposed to weigh the desires of their constituents. And right now, there's no mystery as to what most Texans desire: They want sports betting to be legalized. 

Will they get their wish?

What We Learned From the 2023 Texas Sports Betting Poll

The 2023 Texas sports betting poll is illuminating for a number of reasons. Sure, it's notable that so many voters reportedly favor legalization. However, it's the circumstances under which they support betting that's particularly interesting. Consider the following excerpt, taken directly from the final report by the University of Houston:

"A new survey from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found widespread public support for legislation that would dramatically upend Texas’ longstanding prohibition against most forms of gambling. The support crosses demographic and partisan lines and includes strong backing from people who identify as born-again Christians.

"Texas Senate Joint Resolution 17 (SJR 17), if passed by the Legislature, would require approval by a majority of voters in a November constitutional referendum. It would allow one casino resort in each of the state’s four major metro areas – Houston, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio – along with limited casino gambling at horse and greyhound race tracks and legalized sports betting. It also would allow the state’s three recognized tribal communities to operate slot machines or casino gambling. The survey found three out of four (75%) Texans support the legislation, including 41% who said they strongly support the bill. Just 13% strongly oppose the change. In addition, 69% back stand-alone legislation to legalize both in-person and online sports betting; 31% oppose it.

These results are truly surprising, if not outright shocking. Many Texas officials have called them something along the lines of "striking." It was always assumed a conservative state such as this one would be more on the fence. Religious and moral opposition are considered among the strongest roadblocks to legal Texas sports betting. And yet, this survey proves there's actually a "strong backing from people who identify as born-again Christians," who have long been the driving force of opposition to gambling.

In fact, according to the University of Houston, around 70 percent of born-again Christians favor some kind of legal sports betting legislation. There is no overstating the significance of these findings. Whether it represents a shift in views or fundamental disconnect between perception and reality, this is a figure that should have a material impact on discussions at the legislative sessions.

The Chance of Texas Legalizing Sports Betting in 2023 Remains Uncertain

Based on the University of Houston poll, it would seem as if Texas sports betting can be considered a relative lock. Alas, it's not that simple.

The biggest hurdle? The casino gaming industry. While the survey shows most Texans don't have an issue allowing the commercialization of casinos, the state's policymakers have long stood against it. They haven't shown a ton of interest in the extended timeline it would take to get a fledgling industry up and running, but mostly, they have cited concerns about the predatory nature of casino placement and the potential for over-saturated tourism.

This is why an online sports betting-only bill has picked up steam within many circles. Texas already allows Daily Fantasy Sports, and the legalization of online sports betting would be seen as an extension of that. It would also preclude The Lone Star State from having to revamp their casino gaming laws.

With that said, this model isn't particularly popular among the state's tribal casinos—the only casinos allowed to operate in Texas. They see online sports betting as a threat to their business model. If Texans are free to sign up and bet with one of the top reviewed online sportsbooks, they might be less inclined to visit on-site gaming establishments.

The Timeline for Sports Betting in Texas Remains Unchanged

Despite this airtight evidence that support for sports betting has grown in The Lone Star State, nothing about the timeline for legalization has changed.

Texas still needs to pass a bill through the House and Senate, and that initiative must then be placed on the ballot for the next general election in 2024. From there, it could be another year or more before an actual sports betting rollout.

Still, the results from the University of Houston survey are nothing if not encouraging for sports betting enthusiasts. The interest in legal gambling is incredibly real.

Whether Texas lawmakers listen to their constituents, though, will be a matter of course. And above all, it might require some tweaking to the current sports betting bill so that the state can effectively juggle the stance of tribal casinos with their own disinterest in expanding the region's casino business to include corporations.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs: 

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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