Texas Sports Betting Bills Remain Long Shot to Make It Past Senate

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 3, 2023 12:00 AM
The Senate Committee is unlikely to approve a pair of Texas sports betting bills.

It is starting to seem like another round of legislative meetings will end without the legalization of Texas sports betting.

This, naturally, raises a number of questions, most notably: Why? Is this latest Texas sports betting failure assured or is there still time for the wings to change? What happens if the current gambling measures fail? How long before Texas realistically joins the growing list of states who have already green lit sports wagering?

There will be time to address all of those issues. For now, with the 2023 legislature scheduled to adjourn at the end of May, the latest news matters more than anything else. There are multiple Texas sports betting bills on the table, and somehow both remain long shots to make it out of the state Senate.

Texas Sports Betting Bills Continue to Offer False Hope

On the surface, there's no real cause for alarm. Both of the 2023 Texas sports betting bills have been making their way through the legislative process with very little resistance. 

Most recently, they passed through the Texas House Committee on States Affairs with a 9-3 approval rating. These initiatives are now set to hit the Texas House Committee on Calendars, where they are once again expected to be approved. From there, they will go to the House of Representatives floor. And guess what? The Texas House is expected to approve of at least one sports betting initiative.

Going from the House of Representatives to the Senate floor would mark the final step of the process. If either one of the sports betting initiatives receives the necessary votes there, they would then be on track to make the 2024 general election ballot. That, in turn, would put the future of Texas sports betting in the hands of the voters.

To be sure, this would be a good thing for anyone who wants gambling to arrive in The Lone Star State. According to a poll conducted earlier this year, more than 75 percent of Texas voters support an increase of sports betting laws. Equally important, this figure includes an extensive approval rating from born-again Christians, who generally skew ultra-conservative and were previously considered among the biggest roadblocks to legal sports gambling in Texas. If this poll proves even remotely accurate, it stands to reason that any betting initiative appearing on the 2024 general election ballot would pass with flying colors.

Of course, none of this is possible unless one of the sports betting bills makes it past the Senate. And with each passing day, it seems less likely that's going to happen.

All Signs Point Toward Texas Senate Rejecting Sports Gambling Bills

Though many entered the 2023 legislature meetings with unbridled optimism, this outlook began to fade almost immediately. Reports coming out of the sessions initially indicated the subject wasn't a key talking point among prominent stakeholders. As we have also written about a few times, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has repeatedly poured cold water on both sports betting bills—even though one of them is backed by his own Republican party.

Still, until now, neither sports betting bill appeared dead beyond revival. Not only were they passing through other Texas committees, but both have the full support of every professional sports team inside the state. That's typically supposed to mean something. After all, professional sports franchises have massive economical influence over even the largest markets such as Texas.

However, it doesn't appear as if the public support of pro sports teams and their billionaire owners will be enough. As the folks over at the National Football Post recently explained, a multitude of issues have cropped up during meetings in which the legalization of sports betting gets discussed:

"While the bills, known as HB1942 and HJR102 were discussed in the Committee on State Affairs hearing concerns were raised over a 10 percent proposed tax rate, and a $500,000 state licensing fee. The Kickapoo Tribe also voiced their opposition to the bill during the hearing. Even if the bills were somehow to pass through the House, they are a long shot to pass through the Senate before the end of the legislative session on May 31. According to local media reports the support is definitely lacking in the Senate. Texas Lieutenant Governor told local media in March that 'Right now, there are no votes in the Senate, there’s no support I can see. There wasn’t when the session began and there’s not now with the numbers to pass a bill.'"

Will The Senate Even Vote on the Texas Sports Betting Bills?

These latest developments come as a major blow to all interested parties. Texas voters clearly want some form of gambling. And we know the best online sports betting sites in the United States are just itching to crack what's considered one of the three largest gambling markets in the country.

This says nothing of the pro sports teams (and athletes) who stand to make millions, if not much more, off prospective endorsement deals and partnerships. You can obviously understand why Texas' sports franchises are so invested in making sure this discussion drags out until the absolute last minute.

But there's another problem at play here: This isn't just about getting the Texas Senate to approve of legal sports betting. It's about getting them to discuss it at all.

Lieutenant Governor Patrick essentially sets the agenda. And he is on record, at multiple outlets, suggesting he won't bring the sports betting initiatives to the floor unless he knows, without absolute certainty, they have enough votes to make it through. So even if the sports betting proposals make it through all the necessary committees and the House of Representatives, as expected, there's a strong chance they remain dormant through the end of the legislative meetings. 

In some ways, this doesn't matter. Either way you slice it, Texas sports betting still seems years away. But if this round of legislative sessions ends without any gambling bills getting floor time in the Senate, it will be seen as a massive step back for the future of sports wagering in The Lone Star State. And rightfully so.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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