One of the biggest fish still absent in the US legal sports betting scene, Texas has started the ball rolling toward their own legalized platform. Texas has long been considered a longshot to launch legal sports wagering but apparently the available data in participating jurisdictions combined with the rash of states that are welcoming legalization has sparked a discussion about how the Lone Star State can benefit.
Discussion on Bill HB 2070 has been ongoing to the delight of sports betting proponents in Texas. Lawmakers’ seriousness toward legalization is best demonstrated by the 10+ hours of discussion on the topic Wednesday among the Texas House Committee on State Affairs. Rep. Dan Huberty has spearheaded the talks and has gotten further than most legislators and industry insiders thought was possible at this point in time.
“It’s in the best interest for Texas to implement a strict regulatory policy about this. It’s already happening. People acknowledge it’s already happening. And so, we want to make sure that it’s transparent, is trustworthy, that’s got integrity to it, and it will generate additional funding for the state of Texas,” Huberty said.
What Bill HB 2070 says
Bill HB 2070 is fairly expansive by nature. It would pave the way for both retail and mobile betting in Texas and would allow professional teams to be licensed operators. A legal sports betting platform would be taxed at 10% and have a 7% hold. Under the plan, bets on college sports will be permitted.
It is estimated that legal sports betting will bring state and local coffers approximately $40 million annually in revenues upon maturity. That funding has already been earmarked for lacking educational programs in the state including the 2,813 public schools and 427 private schools.
“Gambling is here. This bill will do two things. It will legalize and regulate monies that come into the state from sports betting and as many of you know, I have fought very hard for special education revenue specifically and monies would go into that and the general education fund,” said Huberty. “Currently, the bill includes the best provisions from other states are doing. I will say this, the agreed-upon language in the bill provides a safe and competitive environment amongst all that will be involved.”
The state’s Sports Betting Alliance, consisting of professional sports teams and sports betting operators within the state sees a legal sports platform as a way to take advantage of the roughly $5.6 billion that is spent annually by Texas residents with unregulated and offshore sportsbooks.
Along with the impressive projected revenue totals that a legal sports betting platform would bring, it isn’t lost on Texas lawmakers just how many neighboring states have or are in the process of a legalized sports betting platform.
Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas have already OK’d sports betting in their jurisdictions and Louisiana has gone as far as a Constitutional Amendment with designs on launching their own platform sometime this year. Dan Huberty in his opening remarks on the House Floor mentioned that billions of
dollars were already “flowing out of the state for gambling” and boldly questioned how many of his colleagues ever placed a legal bet, in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
26 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting already and Texas lawmakers certainly don’t appear interested in being left out of the revenue generating party. Texas’ sports teams including the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Texans, the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars among others have also spoken up in support of a robust legal sports betting scene.
The Tough Road Ahead
Despite conversation happening in Texas with regard to a legal sports betting platform, the idea still faces a tough road ahead. Perhaps most importantly is the traditional and well-known reluctance of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to bring legal sports betting to his state. He is arguably the most important governmental figure to convince of the merits of such a platform.
There are also some legislative hurdles in the way. Lawmakers have until May 31 to draft, debate and pass any ideas before their 2021 session adjourns. It is not a whole lot of time for a state new to the idea of legalization. On top of that, there is the fact that the Texas legislature only meets in odd-numbered years, meaning that if nothing is passed by May, the idea won’t even be heard again until 2023.
Texas’ Indian tribes still have to be consulted and they could also pose a big threat to the state lawmakers’ desire of getting something done quickly. After all, state-wide legal betting would cut into the business of existing legal betting entities like the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas’ casino in Eagle Pass.
Legal sports betting wasn’t even in the Lone Star State conversation a few months ago. So, it is a tad tough to know what to make of Texas’s push to launch their own platform. Time doesn’t seem to be on the side of the proponents, but momentum just may be.
This isn’t the last we hear of Texas’s desire to launch. Stay tuned!