Road to Texas Legal Sports Betting Suffers Yet Another Setback with Commercial Casino Ruling

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Road to Texas Legal Sports Betting Suffers Yet Another Setback with Commercial Casino Ruling

Many steps need to be taken for sports betting in Texas to become a reality. This runs contrary to the idea that it's an inevitability. Sure, it may be a formality in the end. Lots of government officials have come out in support of Texas legal sports betting over the past year. But the state's actual actions tend to point toward a longer wait period than expected.

First off, the latest sports betting initiative failed to gain any real traction at the latest legislative sessions. And though the general thought was Texas would cozy up to online sports betting by 2023, the state has since taken measures to shore up one of the biggest roadblocks standing between them and legalized gambling. This obstacle? Commercial casinos.

Currently, The Lone Star state features 20 tribal-operated casinos. Allowing for the expansion of that number with the addition of commercially operated casinos is considered a natural next step toward the legalization of sports betting. After all, a majority of sports wagers are placed online these days, and commercial casinos and sportsbooks have much more experience running digital operations. It doesn't always make sense to roll out legal sports betting without already having corporate casinos and resorts in place.

To be sure, that's not always the case. Florida implemented legal sports betting exclusively at their tribal-operated casinos towards the end of 2021. But that ruling was eventually repealed by a federal judge, who ruled in favor of commercial sportsbooks that pointed out Florida's tribal-only gambling operations constituted an unconstitutional monopoly.

This all to say: Permitting commercial casino operations would be a step in the right direction if Texas wants sports betting anytime soon. And that's what makes the latest Texas sports betting news so puzzling.

Texas Legal Sports Betting Takes Major Blow with Latest Ruling

In recent months, if not years, the Las Vegas Sands corporation has been leading the charge to get approval for commercial casinos in The Lone Star State. Their push was backed by millions of dollars in lobbyist funding, as well as the promise to construct a sprawling resort that created jobs and enormous revenue streams.

However, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling towards the end of June marked a big-time win for federally recognized Native American tribes that have been fighting against the inclusion of commercial casinos and gaming for around three decades. Here's the official details, courtesy of The Nevada Independent:

The 5-4 ruling by the justices allows the Tigua Indians of El Paso, formally known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, to operate bingo at an El Paso entertainment center. Analysts said the ruling will also benefit the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, which has been fighting with Texas officials over bingo operations on its reservation, which is located an hour’s drive north of Houston. A third tribe, Kickapoo Traditional Tribe, has bingo-based games at a casino in Eagle Pass, two hours west of San Antonio. But the tribe’s gaming operations are covered under a different federal law.

Some see this as a win for all types of gambling operations. Texas didn't rule so much against commercially operated casinos as they ruled in favor of tribal-owned casinos broadening their gaming offerings. Still, the state has continued to vote down, if not outright ignore, the aggressive pushes from Las Vegas Sands, which has most recently threatened to pull their proposal entirely. 

Also, the fact that this vote narrowly passed with a 5-4 margin doesn't spell good news for commercially operated casinos and, by extension, sportsbooks. States are traditionally more open to expanding the powers and reach of tribal-operated business models. That Texas remains on the fence even for them shows just how much perception throughout the state still needs to change.

What Happens Next in Texas?

More likely than not, nothing will immediately change throughout Texas. Merely approving the installation of bingo-style games at additional casinos and tribal-operated establishments doesn't technically have to portend political overhaul. The next Texas legislative sessions won't take place until 2023 anyway. That's considered the absolute earliest the state will give further thought to the legalization of sports betting, let alone actually green light it.

Still, the next year-and-change will be incredibly important if Texans want to see the state warm up to more open-ended gambling laws. If they incur a noticeable or lucrative bump in tax revenue thanks to these bingo-style games, it will be another leg for pro-sports-betting parties to stand on.

Bingo games are a niche market. Sports betting is an institution. So if you feel the impact of the former, just imagine what will happen when you approve the latter.

Expectations for Legal Sports Betting in Texans

Our message to Texans remains the same as it's always been: stay patient—and optimistic, but cautiously so.

Given that the majority of the U.S. has legalized sports betting in some form, and that the Texas market stands to rake in billions from doing the same, we still believe we'll see gambling arrive in The Lone Star State around 2024. But if the vote on bingo-style gaming this past month taught us anything, it's that there's no such thing as a sports betting formality within the current government structure.

Maybe that changes after the November 2022 elections, when Texans will have the chance to vote in new leads. For now, people in Texas can travel to bordering states like New Mexico and Oklahoma to place their wagers or simply check out our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, many of which are ready and willing to let anyone in the USA create an account and start processing bet slips.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for 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...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read more here.