REPORT: Texas Senate Doesn't Have Votes to Approve Legal Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
REPORT: Texas Senate Doesn't Have Votes to Approve Legal Sports Betting

The wait for sports betting in Texas has lasted quite a while, and apparently, it's not going to end anytime soon. If recent reports are accurate, in fact, legal sports betting has virtually no chance of hitting The Lone Star State before 2026.

This latest news can be seen as both surprising and predictable. The status of Texas sports betting has been inconsistently portrayed and discussed over the past year. Many believed the legalization of Texas sports betting in 2023 would be a formality after how seriously it was considered last year. Others remained skeptical that the House of Representatives and Senate could give the green light. These skeptics commonly cited the state's concerns about the legalization of commercialized casinos as one of the roadblocks standing in front of sports betting.

Pessimism was usually drowned out by a wave of vocal support. Pretty much every pro sports franchise and owner in Texas has advocated for legal sports betting. On the other hand, various prominent figures have publicly opposed the matter—including world famous Texas-based sports bettor Mattress Mack.

Still, despite the division in sentiment, the prevailing belief was that Texas would legalize sports betting. After all, it's what residents appear to want. A recent poll showed 75 percent of Texas voters would approve legal sports betting. Surely this had to matter when the latest Texas sports betting bill was brought before the House and Senate committee at the start of the 2023 legislative sessions.

Or maybe not.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick Has Essentially Declared Legal Sports Betting Hopes Dead

News that Texas doesn't have the votes to approve legal sports betting is not coming from questionable outlets or unnamed sources. It is coming from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, on the record, without much room for interpretation.

Speaking with The Mark Davis Show, Mr. Patrick said the Senate needs to show more enthusiasm for the current sports betting bill to even make the Senate floor. Here are his comments in full, as transcribed by KXAN in Texas:

“Our members have been clear: they’re not in support today. We don’t have any votes in the Senate. Couldn’t find one Senator who supported it...Unless I have 15 to 16 Republicans, meaning it’s a Republican-driven bill because we’re a Republican-driven state, I’m not bringing a bill to the floor. I need Republican consensus otherwise, it’s a Democrat bill."

Whether he meant to or not, Mr. Patrick brings one of the biggest issues facing Texas legal sports betting to the forefront: The inability for both political parties to work together. The lieutenant governor flat-out says he won't bring a bill to the table that's backed by a majority of Democrats simply because it's not being spearheaded by his party.

This is mind-meltingly annoying stuff for sports betting enthusiasts. It shouldn't technically matter who proposed the bill. Patrick's comments are even more frustrating because it's not as if he specifically opposes legal sports betting. Though he has communicated a disdain for it in the past, more recent comments entering the New Year suggested he was more open to sports betting legalization. And if that's the case, his refusal to bring a Democrat-backed sports betting bill to the Senate floor is borne purely out of spite rather than any legitimate political stance.

Is There Any Chance of Texas Legal Sports Betting Passing in 2023?

Despite the bleak outlook painted by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Texas' legal sports betting hopes aren't totally dead for 2023. According to KXAN, one of Patrick’s top allies, Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst, is "sponsoring SJR 39, a constitutional amendment that would allow Texans to wager on sports, if they were to approve it on a November ballot."

This should check the "Republican-backed bill" box that Patrick seems so obsessed with. But then you dig into the details.

Yes, SJR 39 is a Republican-proposed bill. But it has received more support from Democrats. That's what Patrick was hinting at when making his comments on The Mark Davis Show. He doesn't just need a Texas legal sports betting bill to be proposed by Republicans. He needs them to account for the majority of its support.

Don't Hold Your Breath for Texas to Legalize Sports Betting Anytime Soon

Given the strict parameters set by Lt. Gov. Patrick, Texans would be wise not to get their hopes up. The challenges facing SJR 39 are too large at the moment.

Patrick clearly isn't moving off his stubborn criteria. And if it's true that hardly any Republican Senators support SJR 39, the writing is on the wall. Republican lawmakers in Texas have generally been the most outspoken against legal sports betting. More than a dozen of them aren't suddenly going to change their tune in a matter of weeks.

Perhaps the new wave of arguing resonates with holdouts from the conservative party. House Representative Jeff Leach, also a Republican, pointed out during a March hearing that Texans already sign up to bet with top online sportsbooks despite the state's laws. He argued that legal sports betting in The Lone Star State would both make that process safer while creating a lucrative stream of tax revenue. 

For now, it doesn't seem like that logic has moved Republican lawmakers. So many have remained steadfast in their stance against both casinos and legal sports betting. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick may no longer be among those opponents. But it doesn't matter. It's become clear he will only support legal sports betting under a very specific set of circumstances.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one meets all of your sports betting needs: 

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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