Houston Rockets Owner Voices Hope for Texas Sports Betting, Casino Legalization and A New NHL Team

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 16, 2024 08:00 PM
Houston Rockets Owner Voices Hope for Texas Sports Betting, Casino Legalization and A New NHL Team

When it comes to sports betting in the United States, owners of pro sports organizations generally support its legalization. Indeed, they often overtly advocate and influence policies that shape gaming expansion. And the debate over Texas sports betting is no different.

Sure, the state has yet to legalize it. And yes, multiple gambling bills in The Lone Star State have failed to get off the ground. And no, sports betting in Texas will likely not be legalized in 2024 or even 2025. But this reality doesn’t reflect a lack of interest from team owners and executives across the major North American leagues.

On the contrary, The Lone Star State has a coalition dedicated to the advancement of sports gambling and casino expansion. And it comprises in-market organizations such as the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Houston Texans (NFL), Dallas Mavericks (NBA), San Antonio Spurs (NBA), Houston Astros (MLB), Texas Rangers (MLB), Dallas Stars (NHL) and so on.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s Tillman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Not surprisingly, the billionaire CEO of Landry’s, Inc. is among those who support the legalization of sports gambling and casino gaming in Texas. However, he has not necessarily been as vocal about it as fellow team governors like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former-owner-turned-chief-executive of the Mavericks Mark Cuban. That is, until now. And not only did Fertitta recently comment on the status of sports betting and casino legalization in Texas, but he expressed optimism on what’s become a hot-button, highly contested subject. He also touched upon plans to bring—wait for it—an NHL team to the Houston market.

Tillman Fertitta Wants to Bring Resort-Style Casinos to Texas

Speaking with Bloomberg, Fertitta reiterated a desire to bring resort-style casinos in addition to sports betting operations to the state of Texas. 

“Let’s do something to bring tourism and the business traveler and conventions to Texas—and these need to be billion-dollar properties that do that,” he said (as relayed by Tori Latham of Robb Report). “We need to do it right and build the casinos, and not have a bunch of slot machines at every single little grocery store.”

Texas sports betting opponents will immediately roll their eyes. Of course Fertita wants to legalize additional forms of gaming. His company, Landry’s Inc., owns and/or has opened casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada; Laughlin, Nevada; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Tack on his Texas roots and the fact that he owns one of the NBA’s 10 most valuable franchises, and yes, he will obviously support sports gambling in The Lone Star State. His personal net worth stands to benefit a great deal from any sports betting legislation Texas may pass in the future.

Fertitta’s own biases in mind, this doesn’t make him wrong. Thirty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have now legalized some form of sports betting. At least one or two others are expected to join the fold over the next year, if not more. On top of that, the legalization of online sportsbooks in the United States has crescendoed to a fever pitch. The idea of approving just on-site gambling no longer holds as much appeal. Online sports betting in the USA is the premier driver of state tax revenue. There is no denying that Texas would generate hundreds of millions in funds per year if they green light casino gaming and sports gambling.

Billionaire Business Interests are Far From the Only Support Texas Sports Betting Receives

We understand anyone who takes the statements of ultra-rich people with vested interests in Texas sports betting and casino gaming with a metric ton of salt. Taking what Fertitta says at face value is, in fact, an unwise play. 

In this case, though, his sentiments seem to reflect those of The Lone Star State’s general population. As Latham wrote:

“Everyday Texans have also shown their interest in gambling: They spend some $5 billion a year placing bets and playing games in adjacent states and in Las Vegas, the political scientist Clyde Barrow said. And about 75 percent of Texans support bringing casino-style resorts to the state, according to a poll from January 2023. Plus, one consultant said that just seven proposed casino projects could add $7.7 billion and 48,000 jobs to Texas.”

Ascribing beliefs to the entire population based on polls with limited samples is risky. But it certainly seems like the interest level in Texas casinos and sports betting is high enough for the matter to be put in front of voters. 

So, why hasn’t it yet?

Why Do So Many Officials Oppose the Legalization of Texas Sports Gambling and Casino Commercialization? 

Even those most devout opponents of Texas sports gambling are unable to deny the financial windfall legal betting would beget. But the dollar-sign upside is largely eclipsed by two driving forces.

Firstly, and perhaps foremostly, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick remains a big opponent of Texas sports betting—for reasons, mind you, that aren’t immediately clear beyond political party affiliation. Among those who have expanded upon their distaste for legal gambling, though, many simply consider sports betting and casino gaming immoral

This form of opposition used to be considered religiously motivated. Recent polls, however, have shown even conservative Christians are open to sports betting in Texas

The bigger problem seems to be the impact legal wagering will have on problem gambling. This includes predatory advertising practices, underage residents being exposed to betting and outright addictive issues, among other things. 

Make no mistake, these are all beyond valid concerns. And no state has figured out how to actually resolve them. They have regulations in place to limit the downside. Eradicating it entirely is impossible. 

That’s the concession state after state as made. There is no way to make sports betting in the USA completely safe 100 percent of the time. But officials justify this by noting that illegal gambling is far more dangerous. Legalizing it at least allows and invites more regulation. And until the majority of Lone Star State officials start thinking in these terms, it could be quite a few years before Texas sports betting travels the path to legalization.

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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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