Pro Sports Teams Still Pushing for Legalization of Texas Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Pro Sports Teams Still Pushing for Legalization of Texas Sports Betting

The hope for legal sports betting in Texas entered the month of April on life support. It didn't appear to be gaining enough traction during current legislative discussions. Many still believe it doesn't have the legs to succeed. But The Lone Star State's pro franchises aren't going down without a fight. They are bent on getting Texas sports betting legalized this year.

This sounds encouraging on the surface. Whether there's cause for optimism is a separate matter.

Indeed, owners and executives have influence over political matters. For better or worse, billionaire status and high-ranking gigs within professional sports give you access to important discussions. Pro sports teams have the ability to campaign for their own stadiums and initiatives, as well as have their opinions heard at key deliberations.

We are seeing the latter take place in Texas now. The state's 11 pro franchises are openly advocating for the imminent legalization of sports betting. But will they be successful?

Leaders of the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Houston Astros and Others Call for Texas Sports Betting to be Legalized

Desperate times call for exceptional measures. The 11 pro sports franchises in Texas have joined forces to campaign for legal gambling. This list of organizations includes the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Astros (MLB), Texas Rangers (MLB), Dallas Stars (NHL), San Antonio Spurs (NBA), Dallas Mavericks (NBA) and others.

For the most part, this is unlike anything we've seen. Teams from the same leagues routinely end up arguing side-by-side on issues that face their specific sports. Seldom, however, do we see this level of cross-sports unity. It speaks to the gravity of the Texas sports betting debate. For their part, the 11 teams issued a joint statement on the matter that was recently read before the state's legislative leaders. Here are the details, via John C. Moritz of the Corpus Christi Caller Times:

"'By Texas not having legalized sports betting it disadvantages our fans compared to sports fans in other states that are protected by regulation and given the freedom of opportunity to legally bet,'" the executives said in a letter delivered Tuesday to House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. 'Ultimately, (the proposed measures) protect Texans from the illegal, foreign sports betting market that is operating unregulated in Texas,' the letter adds. 'These bills provide a fair and responsible system of permitting and taxation for operators and the proposed legislation has best practices from other states that will maintain the integrity of Texas professional sports.'"

This is a common refrain among Texas sports gambling advocates. They point out that state residents are already placing wagers with off-shore bookies. The belief is that legalizing the process and licensing some of the top online sportsbooks will make gambling safer. In theory, they're not wrong. But studies have shown that the legalization of sports betting will lead to an uptick in reported gambling addiction, which is an issue by itself that must be addressed. It's also one of the main reasons why some officials are still so against sports betting legalization.

Counterarguments cite that legal sports betting can help this, as well. Gambling addictions still occur even in places without legal sports betting. By legalizing the act of sports gambling, the states can at least collect extra tax revenue, some of which is then earmarked for problem betting programs.

Is The 2023 Texas Sports Gambling Initiative Already Dead?

For the time being, it sounds like the push from Texas' sports teams might be too little and too late. The statement read was actually only drafted because the Senate reportedly doesn't have enough votes to legalize sports betting.

This news has caught some by surprise. Republicans have historically been the toughest to sell on sports gambling, and The Lone Star State's Senate is controlled by conservatives with a 19-12 majority. However, the sports betting initiatives currently on the table have actually been proposed by sitting Republican officials. That's why so many believed legal wagering would get the green light this year. It was considered a formality to start 2023.

The legislative sessions are so far painting a different picture. Above all, the Senate still needs to sway Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who sets the legislative agenda. He continues to be unmoved by pushes for legal sports betting. So it's not only possible the latest sports betting proposals won't pass, but there's a chance they don't even get put to an internal vote.

If that's the case, the quest for legal sports gambling will be delayed for at least a couple of years. Remember: The introduction of online sports betting will require a constitutional amendment. That means the matter will have to appear on a general election ballot and be voted on by the general public. A failure to push through a sports wagering bill now means Texas cannot realistically get a measure on the ballot before 2026. From there, it could be 2027 or later before sports betting is officially rolled out. 

Mind you, this all presumes the next attempt to legalize wagering in Texas is successful. There's no guarantee it will be. Just look at what's happening now. At this rate, it's going to take some dramatic changes in legislative control for sports betting to get legalized.

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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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