Texas Sports Betting Faces Another Hurdle on Road to Legalization

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 8, 2023 12:00 AM
Texas sports betting faces yet another hurdle on road to legalization.

And just like that, another roadblock to Texas sports betting has bubbled to the surface.

This is, of course, hardly good news to proponents of legalized gambling. The Lone Star State is already facing more than their fair share of obstacles on the subject. Chief among them has been Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is widely credited with making it virtually impossible for the Senate to vote on sports betting in Texas.

Yet, he is not alone in his opposition. Battles of morality continue to dominate the debate. Others have strictly pushed back against attempts to commercialize the casino industry in tandem with Texas sports gambling.

To be sure, Lieutenant Governor Patrick has not helped matters. His refusal to even let the issue hit the Senate floor and get put to an official vote has aggravated many policymakers. Still, he alone is not delaying the Texas sports betting timeline.

What's more, it's not even just lawmakers who stand in the way of legalized wagering. Certain tribes are also making their voices heard, and their sentiments suggest The Lone Star State may be even further away from sports betting approval than we initially thought.

At Least One Tribe is Not Happy About Being Left Out of the Texas Sports Betting Discussion

Various bills that would have legalized different forms of sports betting throughout Texas cropped up during the latest legislative sessions. And at least one of the state's tribes wasn't happy about it.

Speaking with the Houston Chronicle, Kickapoo Tribe Chairman Juan Garza expressed dismay for some of the terms. "It is extremely concerning that the out-of-state interests behind the casino and sports wagering bills have excluded the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas from their legislation," he said.

Garza was referring, specifically, to a proposal that would have expanded the casino industry in Texas. Jerome Garcia went into more detail on the matter for GamblingNews.com:

"One such proposal called for the development of 'destination resorts' at eight different locations around the state. The Kickapoo Tribe sees this proposal as threatening considering that its gaming location would need to compete with casino-style gambling games such as roulette, craps and blackjack. 'Our Tribe has been in Texas for centuries,' Garza said (via the Houston Chronicle). 'It is disheartening to have these big corporations prioritized over the economic survival of the Kickapoo.'"

Texas can theoretically ease any prospective burden on local tribes by guaranteeing them sports betting licenses. At the same time, that would still pit them against more established operators, many of which rank among the best online sportsbooks in the United States. That won't necessarily make it more feasible for brick-and-mortar gaming locations, like those operated by the Kickapoo, to survive. They would still be competing with corporations that boast more resources and name recognition.

Is It Possible Texas Could Legalize Just On-Site Sports Betting?

Another option that would be more palatable to the Kickapoo and other tribes is a sports betting bill that allows only in-person wagering on tribal properties. This would prevent them from competing with larger corporations. It would also, in theory, keep more of the Texas sports betting revenue in state.

For now, it isn't clear whether this is a viable option. Nor does it necessarily solve anything.

Any sports betting initiative must include the expansion of the casino industry. Texas doesn't currently allow casinos. There are establishments that offer certain electronic games, but that's the extent of the industry.

So, no matter how Texas goes about legalizing sports betting and casinos, current gaming facilities will still wind up facing more competition. By extension, this makes Texas sports betting an incredibly difficult sell to tribes operating one of these electronic casino-type businesses.

Could Tribal Push-Back Derail the Future of Texas Sports Betting?

Like always, the answer to this question is complicated. On the one hand, yes, opposition from tribes such as the Kickapoo can go a long way toward derailing future sports betting campaigns. Many policymakers have already expressed concerns about funneling too much revenue outside the state, thereby siding with the Kickapoo's argument, directly or indirectly.

With this in mind, the latest Texas sports betting obstacle is unlikely to be a defining one. The Kickapoo, and others, do not have the leverage or influence to upend an initiative with widespread support. Granted, in the interim, it also doesn't seem like the Kickapoo or other tribes in their situation have much to worry about.

Sure, in many ways, the push for Texas sports gambling made plenty of progress this past year. House Bill 1942 advanced through the House of Representatives without breaking a sweat. That suggests The Lone Star State is on the cusp of policy overhaul. Then again, the opposition at the Senate level is astoundingly strong. 

Not only is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick holding the bar for a vote unfathomably high, but even more open-minded lawmakers haven't treated Texas sports betting as a more pressing issue. In all likelihood, that's because the Texas state budget continues to operate at a massive surplus. That's why many experts don't think Texas will consider the legalization of sports betting even by 2025: The state, as of now, doesn't need the additional revenue.

Indeed, there's a chance a sports betting initiative breaks through the cracks anyway. But until Texas views the money derived from legal gambling as a necessary revenue stream, the future of legal sports betting may remain just as murky as it does now.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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