Texas Legislative Session Ends Without Casino and Sports Betting Bill Passage

The regular legislative session in Texas has ended and an effort to legalize casino gaming and sports betting has died. Several lawmakers along with potential stakeholders tried to push for the passage of legislation to no avail. Unfortunately, the missed opportunity now means that casinos and sports betting will continue to be banned in the state through 2023. The only way that this will change is if Governor Greg Abbot decides to call for a special session.

Continued Ban

Currently in Texas, the state’s constitution bans all forms of gambling unless it is in special circumstances, such as bingo or charity events. A large effort was made to see the legalization of casinos and sports betting this year, with big companies like the Las Vegas Sands lobbying for the legal change. Millions were spent to inform residents about the potential legalization and what it could mean for the state.

While many lawmakers were on board, neither the Republican Deputy Governor Dan Patrick, the head of the Senate, or the Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan were in favor of the legislation. Early on, Patrick said that the expansion of gambling in the state was not a hot issue for the current session.

The vice governor said at the time that there were too many competing interests to unwind the expansion bill. A sports betting proposal was up for consideration in the Senate, one that was sent to the Senate Board of Commerce. In the House, there was a version as well, which was submitted to the House State Affairs Committee.

Dan Huberty, a Representative for Houston, was an author of two house bills on the subject and said that legalized sports betting would bring a new revenue stream to the state. He argued that the freedom to offer sports betting to residents outweighs the concerns of the potential social impacts of the new industry.

Illegal sports betting is already taking place in Texas, and people are traveling out of the state to take part in neighboring states that offer services. Huberty says a legal framework is needed to protect the citizens who are taking part in the illegal activity.

The Senate side didn’t even hear legislation and the two measures were left alone until the session expired. The House at least hosted a hearing to discuss the options.

The Casino Push

While sports betting was a hot topic of debate, so was the addition of casinos in Texas. Certain legislation on the table would have allowed a limited number of casinos to be constructed in the state. Gaming committees would be established, and 8-Liner machines would have been legalized.

This is the effort that the Sands got behind. Millions of dollars were spent on television and radio ads to help the public understand the issue and what might be on the November ballot. Legislators were not passing sports betting and casino gaming outright during the session, but considering if the public should have a vote on the matter.

It seems the push was not enough and most lawmakers in the state are not ready to allow its own citizens the ability to vote on whether or not new gambling options should be allowed where they live.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.