Are Pro Sports Teams Actually Hurting The Quest for Texas Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 5, 2023 12:00 AM
Certain officials will not support Texas sports betting because the state’s pro franchises are apparently too liberal.

Professional franchises have openly expressed their support for Texas sports betting over the past few years. Their involvement has been considered critical to the matter making it through the House of Representatives and Senate. This past year, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones even tried selling the merits of sports betting in Texas to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. He was, of course, unsuccessful. But his active involvement and the role of other pro sports franchises is among the most important supporters that Texas sports gambling has going for it.

Then again, not everyone agrees. 

In recent months, it has become clear that certain Texas officials view the preferences and involvement of pro sports teams as a detriment. Some, in fact, seem less likely to ever approve of sports betting in Texas because of how vocal Mr. Jones and other key pro-sports-franchise figures have been on the issue.  

How prevalent is this feeling among policymakers? What, exactly, is the reasoning behind it? And could this belief actually prevent the legalization of Texas sports gambling when the House and Senate meet next year?

Sports Franchises are Apparently Too ‘Woke” for Certain Members of the GOP

When one of this past year’s Texas sports betting bills made it past the House of Representatives, it took many by surprise. The state’s House and Senate are both controlled by Republican policymakers. And to date, the GOP party has been among the staunchest opponents of legalizing sports betting in The Lone Star State.

On top of that, at least a handful of republicans have apparently taken issue with the sports leagues and teams that gambling would benefit. As Dan Solomon wrote for Texas Monthly:

“The outcome of [the] vote came as something of a surprise; the powerful House Freedom Caucus had signaled its opposition earlier in the session, issuing a tweet that declared sports betting ‘corporate welfare at its worst’ and a giveaway to ‘woke’ sports leagues. In remarks just moments before the votes were cast, Representative Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) inveigled against the bill by asking his fellow members to put themselves in the shoes of one of our valiant service members who attended an event for a sports team that had stopped playing the national anthem before games, and to imagine how that must feel.” 

For those who may not know, the House Freedom Caucus is a “congressional caucus consisting of Republican members of the United States House of Representatives.” Among pundits and analysts, it is “generally considered to be the most conservative and farthest-right bloc within the House Republican Conference.” In a state like Texas, which continues to lean heavily toward ultra-conservative policies, the House Freedom Caucus holds a great deal of influence. That’s why it was so surprising, if not shocking, to see this year’s sports betting bill make it as far as it did.

In the end, of course, sports gambling opponents had little to worry about. Lieutenant Governor Patrick has been stubborn when it comes to covering the issue inside the Senate. Even though this year’s Texas sports betting proposal had more support among GOP members, Mr. Patrick still claimed it didn’t have enough momentum to warrant serious consideration on the Senate floor. 

This Particular Argument Against Texas Sports Betting Makes No Sense

Forgive us for the bluntness. But this isn’t an issue that deserves any sort of preamble or tact. There are plenty of conversations to be had about the merits of Texas sports betting. Skepticism and opposition are also fine. Many members of congress are concerned about predatory gambling practices. Others question whether allowing the best online sportsbooks in the United States to operate inside the state will drive revenue away from current tribal gaming operations. Some are against the commercialization of the casino industry that will be incumbent on any sports betting legalization.

To frame sports leagues as “too woke,” though? That makes absolutely no sense. Representative Matt Shaheen’s decision to invoke kneeling for the national anthem is particularly bonkers. For starters, it has no bearing on this issue. But also, he entirely missed the point. When NFL players refused to kneel for the National Anthem, they were not protesting the National Anthem itself. They were engaging in a peaceful demonstration against police brutality. That literally has nothing to do with Representative Sheehan’s baseless “But think about the troops!” defense.

Furthermore, this idea that pro sports franchises are too liberal (i.e. “woke”) verges on hysterical. Generally speaking, the owners of pro sports teams tilt toward the Republican party. Go back and look at the political donations of the wealthiest sports owners. Do you really think Jerry Jones is, you know, funneling vast amounts of money towards Bernie Sanders or a bunch of socialist groups? Of course not.

Perhaps Representative Sheehan was instead referring to professional athletes. That at least makes more sense. At the same time, it also doesn’t make any sense. Pro athletes do not directly benefit from the proceeds of legal Texas sports betting. Their teams will sign lucrative sponsorships; they won’t. Now, could that money be part of the related income ultimately responsible for determining salary caps and player earnings. Sure! But with or without the legalization of Texas sports betting, professional athletes will still get paid.

On the bright side, this line of thinking is so ridiculously flawed, it should not be a determining factor in whether Texas legalizes sports betting in 2024. On the not-so-bright side, it’s clear The Lone Star State’s Republican lawmakers still haven’t warmed up to the idea enough. That, in turn, seems to suggest it’ll take a minor miracle for Texas sports gambling to get the stamp of approval in time for the next general election.

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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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