Texas is Warming Up to Legalization of Online Sports Betting in 2023

Texas is Warming Up to Legalization of Online Sports Betting in 2023

Unlike more than half of the United States, Texas has yet to legalize online sports betting for its residents. Though many have hoped that would change, there has been a healthy amount of skepticism surrounding the stance of the government, tribes who operate casinos, and lobbyists pushing for current restrictions to remain in place. But for the first time in quite a while, it's starting to feel like legal sports betting will be coming to Texas—not immediately, but at least in the near future.

This is not a drill, folks. It actually sounds like legal sports betting in Texas has become an inevitability rather than a possibility. 

Granted, this won't impress everyone. There is already legal online sportsbetting throughout the USA. Texas is actually in the minority now that more than 30 states have given their stamp of approval to legal sports gambling. Many will in turn argue this news is long overdue. 

And perhaps it is. But it's still a big deal given how long Texas has resisted the implementation of legal sports betting. Local tribes and paid lobbyists have been trying their hardest to delay, if not outright prevent, state-wide approval for years. They have, to date, largely been successful. Only recently does it feel like the tides are turning.

But before you go gallivanting through reviews of the top online sportsbooks to choose where you'll be placing wagers, you'll want to slow your roll. Texas is warming up to the idea of legalizing online sports betting...in 2023. That leaves plenty of time for you to wait. There's also plenty of time for things to change.

Texas' Institutional Stance on Sports Betting is Starting to Change

It isn't yet clear when exactly the tone surrounding legal sports betting started to change in Texas. But it has, in fact, changed.

Though many government officials and party nominees have come out in opposition of legal sports gambling in Texas, the vast majority of incumbents and nominees on the next state ballot have recently started voicing their support for approval as soon as possible. This represents a stark shift from the prevailing institutional sentiment just months ago.

Experts are quick to cite the involvement of professional sports teams. Once local tribes became ultra-aggressive in their spending on lobbyists, we saw large-scale and influential organizations like Austin FC (soccer) and the Dallas Cowboys (NFL) openly join the pro-sports-betting ranks.

This was predictable on some level. Every sports team will favor legal sports betting, because it opens up the door for them to strike partnerships that make them a ton of money. But by spending on their own lobbyists to try and change current policy, select sports franchises throughout the state of Texas have put more pressure on government officials who know they are somewhat dependent on keeping these organizations happy.

Remember: Teams like Austin FC and the Cowboys generate a ton of revenue for the state. They create jobs, attract tourists and, above all, pay taxes on their gross profits. They also obviously get tax breaks. But even at taxable discounts, popular sports franchises are worth a boatload of money to local governments. And Texas just so happens to have some of the most well-known sports teams in the country. Ipso facto: As these teams have come out in favor of sports betting legalization, so, too have many of the people who can help make it happen.

Could Texas Walk Back Their Support of Legal Sports Betting?

Sports fans should absolutely be optimistic about the future of sports betting in Texas. They should also be cautious. Texas has seen momentum swing in a completely different direction before.

Heck, the state has been on a roller coaster of emotions during this year alone. 

Back in February 2022, a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance, Cara Gustafson, told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth that legal sports betting was essentially a done deal for 2023. "We are going to use this interim to have these conversations with lawmakers," she said. "We believe that the voting threshold is there to pass this law in 2023."

That optimism was rebuked just a few weeks later. Dan Patrick, a well-known opponent of legal sports betting, won the GOP nomination for Texas Lieutenant. That victory has rendered him almost a no-brainer choice to win, given how often the state of Texas typically gravitates toward GOP candidates. The implication here is he would help ensure that Texas remained on the outskirts of the sports betting conversation.

The discourse surrounding sports betting only started to shift once more around April. So, yes, that means it can be turned over again.

What to Expect from Sports Betting in Texas

Relative to everything we know about the future of sports betting in Texas, we're left to answer three questions.

Will Texas actually green light sports betting? The answer here is a resounding yes. There may be time for more government officials to walk back their support, but the sheer volume of backings these days has us optimistic.

Can legal sports betting hit Texas this year, in 2022? Unfortunately, the answer here is no. A vote on the matter cannot legally be held until this fall. Given how close that is to the end of the year, there's almost no chance Texas installs sports betting before 2023.

How late into 2023 will Texas have legal sports betting, assuming the vote passes? This is, quite literally, the millions-upon-millions-of-dollars question. In most cases, a sports betting infrastructure can take more than a year to set up, which theoretically means Texas may be without one until 2024.

At the same time, Texas has also seen other states get their licenses, systems and protocols up and running. They should have no trouble mirroring the processes. And knowing how much sports betting revenue is at stake in the winter of 2023, right around the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, we're inclined to believe Texas will wind up having legal sports betting available in some form by next January.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your sports wagering needs: