Discussions pertaining to the legalization of sports betting in states so often focus on financial aspects, as well as political and even religious agendas. But the changes in population makeup can also determine how likely a state is to embrace online gambling. In fact, we may be on the verge of seeing how a shift in demographics will lead to the inevitable approval of sports betting throughout the state of Texas.
Talk surrounding the potential for legal sports betting in Texas has cooled dramatically over the past few months, in large part because it has no chance of being pushed through this year. The Texas Legislature sessions adjourned at the end of 2021 without green-lighting online sports betting and won't meet again until 2023, which hampers the timeline for legal gambling quite a bit. But for those hoping The Lone Star State will change course in the coming years, they may need to only look at shifting Texas demographics as a source of hope.
This might sound bizarre to some. How much could population changes and makeup actually impact Texas' legal online sports betting stance?
It turns out a great deal.
Demographics in Texas Have Undergone Serious Change
At just over 29.7 million residents, Texas boasts the second largest population in the United States, trailing only California (39.6 million). Whenever you're dealing with this scale of people, there is bound to be changes to political, ethnical, religious and age makeups. However, because Texas has skewed heavily conservative on the political spectrum for as long as anyone can remember, it's often assumed their population, despite having grown, is static in its majority.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The population in Texas has grown roughly 40 percent this century—and 90 percent of the new residents are classified as people of color, according to The Texas Tribune. These changes are even more demonstrative when digging into the actual numbers.
Texas' overall population has increased by about 8.3 million people, according to the latest census. That means 7.6 million of these "new Texans" are people of color, which also means the state has "nearly equal numbers of Latino and white residents (39.3% and 39.8%, respectively)," per The Texas Tribune. What's more, Black residents now make up 11.8 percent of the state's population, while Asian residents check in at about 5.4%.
This population progression has incited many questions about Texas' future political leanings. Their congressional districts are still overwhelmingly white (around 65 percent), which has been cause for criticism among how the state chooses which districts qualify. There could be major political ramifications throughout the state as early as the 2022 November elections. Specific to sports betting, though, this shift in Texas demographics also could spell good news for online gambling supporters.
Impact of Changing Texas Population on Legal Sports Betting
It has been nearly a half-decade since the Supreme Court lifted bans on legal sports betting in the United States. With so much time having passed, new data has recently become available that paints a picture of which people represent chunks of the sports betting business. And according to GGB news, a top outlet exclusively covering the casino and gaming industry, people of color represent one-third of sports bettors throughout the USA over the past year. That's up from 25 percent in 2020, and all told, this amounts to a 32 percent increase year-over-year.
Now that Texas features such a large—and still growing—amount of people of color, it's led many to wonder whether sports betting could pass through with flying colors once it finally makes a state ballot. This sentiment is buoyed by the fact Texas' population also includes another budding sports-betting demographic. Younger generations are accounting for large swathes of the United State's long-term betting usage, and Texas just so happens to be seeing an uptick in the number of people under-40 who make up the population.
This trend almost makes you wonder why Texas hasn't yet legalized sports betting. If their population is representative of demographics who embrace it, why not approve it?
Future of Sports Betting in Texas Still Murky
The answer to the aforementioned question is at once simple yet complicated: Texas' political agenda has yet to catch up with their population.
Even at the most local levels, the government still tilts heavily toward ultra-conservatives who are more likely to reject legal sports betting—often on the basis of religious beliefs—than accept it with open arms. For Texas to ensure they get more support behind online sports betting by the next Legislature Sessions in 2023, they may need to see a monumental shift in the political demographics this November. Unfortunately, this might not be enough time for that type of an overhaul. Many don't see any material shift in the political dynamics taking place before 2024.
None of which means the hope for legal sports betting in the near future is dead. Texas still stands to make a boatload in tax revenue from passing it, and more government officials seem to be accepting that many residents are already placing bets anyway. After all, there are many operators from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks who will allow Texans to register and place wagers.
Combine the potential revenue the state is losing to offshore sportsbooks with the influx of politicians speaking out in support of sports betting, most likely to try winning over Texas' shifting demographics, and there's cause for optimism when it comes to the future of legal sports betting. It won't be happening in 2022, or in 2023. But Texans can hope to have sports betting in their state by around 2024.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that will accept all your sports wagers: