Lobbyists are Spending Millions on Trying to Legalize Sports Betting in Texas

Eric Uribe
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Lobbyists are Spending Millions on Trying to Legalize Sports Betting in Texas

Though 33 states—plus Washington, D.C.—have so far legalized sports gambling in some states, there continues to be zero online sports betting in Texas. And while in some certain the absence of any policy can just mean one is pending, Texas is a different story. They have rejected various proposals at every turn and don't appear interested in having another discussion anytime soon. In fact, many experts don't think Texas will have sports betting legalized until 2023 at the absolute earliest.

If you think that's rankled a lot of people, then you're right. To that end, lobbyists are already spending millions of dollars trying to change the states policy and bring legal sports betting to Texas

Will they succeed? That is, quite literally, the million-dollar question.

Lobbyists Spending Millions on Legal Sports Betting Legislature in Texas for 2022

Tensions boiled over in Texas sometime during the 2021 calendar year. A Nevada-based casino company, the Las Vegas Sands, attempted to land special gaming licenses for destination-type gambling spots. In essence, they were proposing to build four casino-style resorts that would open in each of the four biggest cities of the state.

That measure was rejected as part of House Bill 131, which means nothing in Texas has changed. Yet.

Las Vegas Sands has since spent millions of dollars on dozens of lobbyists with the hope that they can sway the local government to reconsider their position. Many are skeptical they'll succeed. 

After all, if online sports betting is legal in most of the USA already and Texas hasn't yet changed their mind, what's going to change this time around? Money.

Texas is Missing Out on Millions in Tax Revenue

Granted, the potential for profit hasn't turned Texas into a pro-gambling location in the past. Even as many states used the coronavirus pandemic as the impetus for installing legalizing sports betting and the tax revenue it promised, Texas has continued not to budge.

This time around, though, lobbyists are armed with a bunch of surrounding examples to which they can point. With so many new states having entered the legal online sports betting business, they can show Texas officials concrete projections of what they stand to make.

Specifically, New York's entry into the business is viewed as a turning point. They reported over $1.5 billion in total sports revenue during their first month of operations. That's the equivalent of $58 million in tax payments from sportsbook operators after factoring in the winnings that were paid out.

With a total population that runs 10 million higher than that in New York, Texas could be leaving a similar amount of money on the table. Other states, such as ultra-local Arizona, never had the leverage to charge high taxes to be licensed. Like New York, though, Texas represents an in-demand market. They can roll out a 51 percent tax rate for sportsbook operators, as New York did, and won't struggle to drum up bids. They can then adjust the tax rates and profit margins as they expand their gambling operations in the future.

Why Hasn't Texas Legalized Sports Betting Yet? 

When this much money is at stake and being passed over, there's only ever one barrier standing in the way of change: politics.

Texas' local government skews not just conservative, but older conservative. Many of their lawmakers and politicians don't see online sports betting as a viable income stream. They believe everything needs to be done via tribal casinos and on-site transactions. They are, of course, wrong. And they're not preventing residents from placing wagers by refusing to legalize sports betting. Texans can either travel across state lines to gamble in neighboring places or find an operator from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that will accept bets from their region.

At any rate, for real and meaningful change to come about in Texas, they'll need to see a noticeable change in the political leanings. And that's why Las Vegas Sands has burned so much money on lobbyists. They're trying to influence the outcome of the next elections as much as humanly possible so that it will be easier to push through pro sports betting legislation down the line.

The problem? Texas' next legislative session is set for 2023. And that suggests the rumors are true. The state won't see legal sports betting before then. On the bright side, the legalization of sports betting does at least feel like an inevitability.

The Dallas Morning News recently conducted an extensive study that found "more than 57 percent of Texans support" bringing sports betting to the state. With polling numbers like those, it's only a matter of time before Texas joins what is now the majority of the United States and decides to offer both on-site and online sports betting.

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

Meet the author

Eric Uribe

Eric has been passionate about sports since he was 10 years old. He brings over 10 years of sports journalism experience to his expert coverage of sports betting. Hailing from the US, Eric leverages his diverse expertise covering sports at all levels – from high schoo...

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