It May Still be a While Before Texas Sports Betting Gets Legalized

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 27, 2024 08:00 PM
It May Still be a While Before Texas Sports Betting Gets Legalized

Are you among those anxiously waiting on the legalization of Texas sports betting? Well, get ready to…potentially keeping waiting

Most understanding sports betting in Texas is off the table until at least 2025. That’s when the Lone Star State’s legislature next meets. At that time, sports gambling talks are bound to dominate the agenda. Not only have 38 states and counting legalized some form of sports gambling, but the new Dallas Mavericks ownership group launched a petition to try accelerating the expansion of gaming laws. Indeed, the sale of the Mavs to the Las Vegas Sands corporation, specifically, is seen as an investment in the imminent arrival of Texas sports betting.

Yet, despite these pushes and signals, is sports wagering really on the horizon in the Lone Star State?

Susan Schneider, the vice president of growth and strategy at Sports Betting Community (SBC), who has been called the “Godmother of Sports Betting,” isn’t so sure. And recently, she spoke about why.

State Legislature Schedule Could Adversely Impact Texas Sports Betting Timeline

Along with Stadia Ventures’ managing director Tim Hayden and Play Anywhere’s chief strategy officer Peter Scott, Schneider moderated a panel on the future of sports betting this past week at SXSW. When speaking about a potential Texas sports betting timeline, she didn’t mince words. In no uncertain terms, she painted the Lone Star State as a wild card market. However, she did reference how Texas’ legislative schedule could keep delaying the matter.

Here’s an on-site dispatch from Katharine Finnerty of Spectrum News 1:

“‘Texas. I don’t know what to say about Texas,’ Schneider said with a sigh. ‘First of all, they only meet every other year, that Legislature, so this is an off-year. Next year, they’ll be back.’ Ahead of the 2023 legislative session, a group of state representatives filed legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting in Texas. The Texas House of Representatives passed the legislation, but it died in the Senate. Gamblers will have to wait until the Legislature reconvenes in 2025 to see if someone will file another sports betting bill. ‘I would hope that by next year, you’d see Texas move forward,’ Schneider said.” 

Schneider makes a valid point here. It will most likely require a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting in Texas. Especially if a bill calls for online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market. And if that’s the case, any Texas sports gambling bill must appear on an electoral ballot after making it through the House and Senate. The 2024 general election is out of the question. Texas’ legislative chambers do not meet this year, and last session’s effort failed. While passing an initiative next year remains a possibility, the proposal couldn’t be voted on until the 2026 election.

Is Texas Actually on Track to Legalize Sports Gambling by 2026?

Now, it’s important to note that 2026 is (likely) the earliest Texas sport betting could launch. That doesn’t mean it actually will. A new measure must first be proposed, and then it will need to get two-thirds support from the House and Senate. From there, voters must approve of the structure.

This is all to say: Texas sports betting has a lot of hurdles to clear. The most challenging of these obstacles? Well, that would be making it out of the Senate.

As most already know, the Texas House of Representatives approved a sports betting bill in 2023. That initiative went on to die in the Senate, largely because Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick remains staunchly opposed to the legalization of sports gambling. Of course, Mr. Patrick is just one person. He can theoretically be overruled. But he plays a key role in setting the Texas legislative agenda. On top of that, he has claimed there is not enough support for Texas sports betting in the Senate to even bring the matter to a vote.

If this is true, it might be a stretch to hope things change by next year. Mr. Patrick will still be in office, and it can take a while for strong-willed opposition to shift tides. 

The Timeline for Texas Sports Betting Could Theoretically Extend Past This Decade

Don’t write off this heading as hyperbole. It’s totally possible.

Failing a material change in party majority during the 2024 election, Texas sports betting efforts may once again fail in 2025. And should that end, the legislative chambers wouldn’t meet again until 2027. Following that timeline, the earliest Texas could legalize sports betting would be 2028

Essentially, because of when the state legislature meets, the entire process will always wind up taking more than a year. So, for every session in which Texas sports betting is not legalized, it pushes the opportunity to do so back by roughly two years

On the bright side, it does seem like getting a bill through the Senate is the lone real roadblock. We already know the House is prepared to advance an initiative. Multiple polls, meanwhile, show that a large portion of Texans favor some form of legal Texas sports betting. So if and when a bill does make it out of the Senate, the odds are the voting population will also ratify.

Still, this does little to clear up the currently fuzzy timeline. Publicly, the prevailing sentiment on Texas sports betting among policymakers tends to wax and wane. Any optimism must be taken with a metric ton of salt. Because frankly, as of now, there’s no assurance that Texas sports betting gets legalized and then launches before the end of the decade.

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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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