The latest push to legalize sports betting in Texas is officially moving forward. And though this news is not unexpected, it does come with a twist: The 2023 Texas sports betting bill has some new, and unlikely, supporters behind it.
And not only that, but the proposal represents a somewhat stark departure from the last measure.
Will these changes ultimately lead to legal sports betting in the Lone Star State? It's too early to say. But the details of this new Texas sports betting bill and the potential implications they carry are fascinating.
Let's get into them, shall we?
2023 Texas Sports Betting Bill Introduced by Surprise Supporter
Everyone assumed the next bill to legalize sports betting in Texas would be introduced by the Democratic party. That is how this issue has typically worked. But the Republicans threw expectations for a curveball on Monday, February 6. The newest proposal is, in fact, authored by them. Here's the Texas Tribune with the somewhat shocking details:
Advocates for legalizing online sports betting in Texas debuted new bills Monday that take a narrower approach than they did in 2021 — and feature a new author in the state Senate who is a Republican. The involvement of Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who is carrying the legislation, is notable because she is an ally of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is seen as the biggest hurdle to expanding gambling in Texas. The previous sports-betting bill filed in the last legislative session was carried by Democrats and got virtually no traction in the GOP-led Senate.
This is a pretty big deal if you want Texas sports betting to get the green light. From the sounds of it, there is more bi-partisan support than ever before. This probably has something to do with the push from outside forces and the additional research into the economics of betting.
First and foremost, the Texas sports betting alliance and the state's professional sports teams continue to advocate for legal wagering. While they do not have a direct impact on shaping policy, their willingness to spend money on lobbyists and keep the topic front and center has ensured Texas sports betting remains top-of-mind. Additionally, numerous studies over the years have determined that the Lone Star State is a multi-billion dollar sports betting market. Even Texas officials who predominantly oppose legal wagering acknowledge how much money can be made from tax revenue each year.
How This Texas Sports Betting Bill is Different from the Others
Speaking of the heightened focus on Texas sports betting revenue, there is one major difference in this bill compared to previous ones: The latest Texas sports betting bill would legalize only online wagering—and not in-person gambling.
Most states have gone the other way. They propose legal in-person wagering and leave out online betting. But Texas has shown intense distaste for expanding the in-state casino business. Commercializing that industry is essential to in-person betting, so it makes sense that Republican officials would introduce a measure that prevents the state from having to rewrite casino gambling laws.
What's more, Texas has been among the states most determined to fight off-shore betting. They know Texans are already placing wagers. Online betting is that accessible these days. Most of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, for instance, allow almost anyone in the United States to set up and service an account.
This has prompted many officials to take the "If we can't beat them, we might as well join them" approach. Although Texas has tried to police offshore online sports betting, it's simply too much of an undertaking. They would be spending money without actually making any. Legalizing online sports betting at least allows them to capitalize on tax revenue from licensed bookmakers.
It's also a more effective and sensible approach. Texas has no chance of preventing sports betting alternatives altogether. People will always find a way to bet on sports, either online or by visiting one of the neighboring states with legal wagering already in place.
Will the Latest 2023 Texas Sports Betting Bill be Successful?
Indeed, the terms of the newest 2023 Texas sports betting bill are promising. But it's not the only measure on the table. A bill backed by pro-casino supporters is also up for consideration, and it's expected to have more traction than last time around.
Granted, having competing measures isn't the end of the world. At the very least, it sounds like the online-only sports betting bill will make it through the House of Representatives and Senate. At that point, the 2024 voter response is all that matters.
Any constitutional amendment in Texas requires it to be put on a major election ballot. If they are passed, the current sports betting proposals would be voted on in November 2024, during the next presidential election. The assumption is Texans will pass one of these measures. But as we've seen in other states, such as California, this is never a sure thing.
Translation: The future of Texas sports betting is both promising and not at all guaranteed.
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: