Is Texas Sports Betting Suddenly on the Fast Track to Legalization?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Is Texas Sports Betting Suddenly on the Fast Track to Legalization?

After years of the state holding out, could Texas sports betting suddenly be on the fast track toward legalization? Some experts within the industry are beginning to think so.

This should of course be taken with a metric ton of salt. There has been optimism surrounding sports betting in Texas before only to see the proposed measure fall through. It should also be noted that some of the biggest proponents for legal Texas sports betting lost during their election bids this past November.

Still, in the wake of another sports betting bill getting filed in Texas, the battle over legalization is starting to gain what feels like more bi-partisan support. And make no mistake, this is a big deal. No one person or political party has the power to push sports betting bills into law. They can lobby all they want. It doesn't matter. For a sports betting initiative to become a reality, it has to pass through both the Texas House of Representatives and Senate before going to a vote on an official election ballot.

Right now, the timeline for Texas sports betting is tentatively set for 2024. That's the earliest a new bill can appear on a major ballot. From there, the state needs to handle the logistics of a rollout, which could take another year or long.

Typically, there isn't much optimism this far in advance. The Texas legislature meetings for 2023 haven't even convened yet, and that's when the matter will be most seriously discussed. However, there appear to be signs that the biggest hurdles are no longer as big of an issue.

Governor Greg Abbott Might Favor Texas Sports Betting After All

The most powerful bit of evidence that Texas may be warming up to sports betting comes from recently re-elected governor Gregg Abbott himself. Though he has historically opposed sports betting for its predatory behavior and the alleged impact it has on crime rates in areas with casinos, he softened up on his stance following his victory in November. As he recently said, according to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram:

"We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money that they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming. But, if there is a way to create a professional entertainment option for Texans, I’d take a look at it in the coming legislative sessions."

Abbott's use of "professional entertainment option" is fairly ambiguous. Is he talking about expanding the casino industry to include commercial establishments? Is he talking about sports betting specifically? Is he referencing both? We can't be sure.

Given the nature of the question—which related to legal gambling at large—it's fair to assume Abbott was talking about all forms of betting. This comes as mostly good news for sports gambling enthusiasts. Then again, many think Abbott might have been delivering empty consideration. Skeptics find it hard to believe he would reverse what was once upon a time a very severe anti-gambling stance.

Yet, we have a tough time believing that this is a ploy. The elections are over. Governor Abbott has no reason to try publicly currying favor with those who might otherwise oppose him. We'd understand the hesitance to believe him if he was hedging during pre-election speeches, but the fact he seems more open to discussing Texas sports betting after his victory feels significant in our book.

Will Online Sports Betting be Part of the Texas' Next Proposal?

If we're going to assume Texas is prepared to debate the future of sports betting, we might as well wonder what the conversations might look like. They are bound to include talks about expanding the casino business, since those brick-and-mortar operations are integral to maximizing the on-site footprint. But will Texas online sports betting be part of the equation? We have our doubts.

Abbott and other Republicans have expressed concern about gambling revenue leaving the state. While we have seen an uptick in pro sports teams partnering with online bookmakers, that has not changed the party line coming out of Congress. And historically, whenever a state seems particularly concerned with keeping sports betting revenue in-state, they've leaned toward gambling models that only allow on-site wagers.

As we've pointed out many times, this line of thinking is inherently flawed. Prohibiting online sports betting doesn't actually stop it. A number of the top online sportsbooks in 2022 will allow Texans to set up an account right now. You better believe they've already taken advantage of that. Texas isn't considered a billion-dollar sports betting industry for no reason. Its residents seem to prefer having the option to gamble.

Whether this reality convinces Texas to legalize online sports betting is a different story. It hasn't stopped select other states from implementing on-site-only policies. Texas is also among those who are trying to take action against offshore sportsbooks in hopes of eradicating online betting altogether. Realistic or not, this implies a certain commitment to in-person wagering.

So if Texas does, in fact, legalize sports betting during the 2023 calendar year, we shouldn't expect their plans to encompass online transactions. That's a flat-out bummer, because most sports wagers are submitted online nowadays. For now, though, people in Texas can take solace knowing that sports betting progress is being made at all. We'll see just how real it is once the 2023 legislature sessions get underway.

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...

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