Will Casino Industry Expansion Come Before the Legalization of Texas Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Will Casino Industry Expansion Come Before the Legalization of Texas Sports Betting?

For some time, the fates of Texas sports betting and the expansion of The Lone Star State’s casino industry have seemed inextricably linked. This is to say, you wouldn’t get one without the other. And more likely than not, you would get both at the same time.

Or maybe not.

As the push for sports betting in Texas continues to hit roadblocks, the relationship between it and the state’s casino gaming laws no longer appear intertwined. Or rather, they no longer seem symbiotic. On the contrary, Texas sports betting hopes may now be competing with casino gaming initiatives. 

And if this is indeed the case, it won’t be good news for the former.

Why is Texas Sports Betting Suddenly Competing with Casino Expansion?

The most recent Texas legislative sessions seemed to prove that sports betting and casino expansion hopes were no longer in lockstep. This came as a surprise to many. After all, Texas’ gaming laws severely limit the flexibility of both markets. 

The Lone Star State is currently home to just three tribal casinos. And these locations are limited in the types of gambling they can offer. Most forms of gaming are illegal in Texas. Residents can play the lottery, wager on horse and greyhound races and participate in bingo events as well as certain video slots, but sports betting and (most) casino table games are a relative no-go. 

Joint constraints at one time all but ensured advocates for Texas sports betting and casino expansion would work together. But that started to change when it became clear just how opposed Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick remains to sports gambling. If there was ever any hope he’d change his tune while in office, it was dashed during the last round of legislative sessions. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would have legalized the use of online sportsbooks in the United States. What’s more, the measure was supported by a number of Republican figureheads. Their involvement was supposed to make it possible for Mr. Patrick, a Republican who shies away from policies proposed by the Democrats, to reset his own position on Texas sports betting. That thinking, while logical, ultimately went nowhere. The most recent Texas sports betting bill didn’t receive anything resembling serious consideration from the Senate.

It’s here that casino agendas start to diverge. A fully operational Texas sports betting market arguably needs additional casinos and more flexible brick-and-mortar gambling policies. After all, along with pro-sport venues, casinos are the most logical place to open retail sports betting locations.

Commercialized casinos, however, don’t have that same reliance. They can get by without sports betting. Sure, the state is losing tons of potential sports betting revenue to neighboring states, but the same can be said for the casino industry. A $70 million casino facility is now on track to open in Oklahoma, just a few miles from the Texas border. Residents are absolutely going to travel and then spend money there. The state is that bereft of gambling options. Even if Texas were to open additional casinos and increase the optionality at their incumbent locations without sports betting, they would stand to make a killing. Gambling in general is so inaccessible that the expansion of any gaming type would draw in massive amounts. Sensing this, supporters of casino expansion have changed their approach.

The Expansion of Texas Casino Laws is Already Garnering More Support Than Sports Gambling 

The Las Vegas Sands has been among the most aggressive in attempting to revamp Texas’ casino stance. And recently, they have focused on bagging the stamp of approval from conservative politicians with the influence necessary to jazz up pro-casino legislation. As Patrick Sviteck wrote for the Texas Tribune:

“Sands, meanwhile, has been touting a ‘long-term commitment to Texas.’ It has not publicly detailed its strategy for this session, but a spokesperson for its political action committee in the state, Matt Hirsch, said that it ‘will continue to actively engage state and local leaders over the course of this session and remain committed to working with lawmakers to ultimately allow voters to decide on this issue.’ They also see firmer allies in Governor Greg Abbott and state House Speaker Dade Phelan. Both leaders expressed openness to expanded gambling in 2021, and they have gone further in recent statements, suggesting agreement with Sands’ vision for casinos in the state. An Abbott spokesperson said in a statement last fall that ‘if there is a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Governor Abbott would take a look at it.’”

Securing allies like Mr. Abbott is huge. He has not shown the same level of open-mindedness towards the legalization of Texas sports betting—though, he has certainly entertained the prospect more than Lieutenant Governor Patrick. 

Essentially, Sands has possibly found a pathway to expanding Texas casino gaming without needing an endorsement from Mr. Patrick. And given how aggressively he has stymied conversations and potential votes on sports betting, supporters of legal sports gambling likely won’t have that same avenue available to them.

What Does This All Mean for the Future of Texas Sports Betting?

There is no exact diagnosis to be given here. So much about the future of sports gambling throughout Texas is up in the air. We won’t get definitive answers until legislative sessions convene. 

Still, the idea that officials have warmed up to casino expansion without shifting their perception of sports betting is potentially daming. There are already plenty of big factors working against Texas sports betting. Adding casino expansion to the list would be pretty significant. 

Rember: Any prospective casino growth was supposed to come in tandem with the legalization of sports betting, not instead of it. The discussions happening now, though, paint a completely different picture. 

And so, more than ever, the timeline for Texas sports betting appears lengthy—not a matter of months, not a matter of a year or two, but a matter of three, four, maybe even five or more years.

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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