Texas Sports Betting Bills Pass Through House of Representatives...Sort Of

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 10, 2023 08:00 PM
Texas Sports Betting Bills Pass Through House of Representatives...Sort Of

The road to legal sports betting in Texas has officially cleared another hurdle. It just isn't yet clear whether it will matter.

On Wednesday, May 10, a pair of Texas sports betting bills received initial approval from the House of Representatives. The first initiative, House Joint Resolution 155, focuses on the commercialization of the casino business. It passed by a 92-51 vote. The second proposal, House Joint Resolution 102, would legalize in-person and online sports betting in Texas. It passed by a stronger margin, with a 97-44 vote.

However, both measures ultimately need 100 votes to make it out of the House and onto the floor of a Senate Committee. Though they fell short of that mark for now, they received the initial majority. That means the House has until Friday, May 12 to rework them and bag the extra votes.

Texas officials are optimistic they'll get them. The casino legislation needs eight additional votes while the sports betting proposal only has to pick up another three. It is widely expected both the casino and sports betting initiatives will close their respective gaps, at which point all eyes turn to the Senate.

As anyone who has been following the drama surrounding sports gambling The Lone Star State knows, this is hardly a comforting notion. While many painted the legalization of Texas sports betting as a formality entering this year's legislative sessions, those hopes quickly devolved into a long shot. Does the latest vote in the House suggest the push for wagering has more legs than expected? Let's find out.

Texas Casino Legislation Receiving Far More Push Back Than Sports Betting Bill

The outcome of Wednesday's vote was seen as a victory for both sports betting and casino supporters. Even before they officially make it out of the House, this is the closest Texas has ever come to legalizing the expansion of in-state gambling.

Still, hurdles remain for both. And there are more roadblocks in the way for the casino proposal. Despite receiving a majority approval from the House, the idea of casino expansion has been met with intense disdain by many officials. Push-back has ranged from "Texas isn't ready for this" to far more dire reasons. Patrick Svitek has more for The Texas Tribune:

Proponents for the expansion of the Texas casino business have argued that the measure would lead to "world-class" tourist hubs with "shopping and entertainment." They have also said that, at the very least, Texas voters deserve the chance to inject their voice into the matter. We'll know whether this approach resonates in the coming weeks.

Support for Texas Sports Betting Bill on the Rise

This year's Texas sports betting bill isn't facing nearly as much opposition as its casino counterpart. Make no mistake, it still has detractors. But Texas officials from both the Republican and Democratic parties have voiced fairly strong support.

Universal backing from every one of The Lone Star State's professional sports franchises certainly helps matters. So, too, does the increased presence of legal sports betting in the United States. More than 35 states are on track to have some form of legal sports gambling up and running by the end of the year.

More recently, Texas officials started reframing the context of the sports betting bill, as well. Democrats, in particular, have said this proposal doesn't actually represent a drastic change. Instead, it's merely a decision to capitalize on the increasing number of Texans already betting with top online sportsbooks in spite of the state's laws.

These sentiments hold serious weight. The off-shore sports betting market in Texas is believed to be worth in the billions. Even those in the House driven by moral opposition understand they can't prevent residents from betting on sports. But will the Senate feel the same?

The Senate is Still Viewed as a Wild Card When It Comes to Sports Gambling

Assuming the pair of Texas sports betting bills make it out of the House, everything hinges on the Senate's reaction. Thus far, this isn't seen as a good thing.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who sets the Senate agenda, has repeatedly dismissed the idea of sports betting. Most recently, he has claimed the Texas Senate doesn't have the votes necessary to legalize sports betting.

Of course, the best way to gauge Senate support is by holding a vote. By all accounts, however, he isn't prepared to do that. Entering the final weeks of legislative meetings, the Texas sports betting bills had yet to appear on the Senate's agenda.

Perhaps the Senate does, in fact, lack the votes to legalize sports betting. But preventing the latest measures from appearing on the floor, generating discussion and being put to a vote undermines the democratic process. And it's not like Lt. Gov. Patrick's views are shared by everyone. Governor Greg Abbott has expressed a willingness to discuss and even accept the legalization of sports betting.

At this rate, we'd wager against Texas legalizing either one of these gambling bills. But we'll know for sure by the end of May. Until then, all Texans can do is wait—and potentially find solace in knowing the push for sports betting is at least making progress, even if more slowly than surely.

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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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