The State of Texas Sports Betting Legislation

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Since New Jersey won a landmark case at the Supreme Court in 2018 allowing them to legalize and regulate online sports betting, on websites such as sportsbettingday.com, 18 states have followed suit. For a state as sports-crazy as Texas, it may come as a surprise that it remains illegal, as do many forms of gambling in the Lone Star State.

Many experts say that it is unlikely to be regulated in the foreseeable future, although there have been some significant efforts to place legislation on the table. But Texas has traditionally been anti-gambling, and with such a divisive political environment in the wider United States, it seems Texans may have to wait sometime to be able to place bets on the sports they love.

Gambling in Texas

The Lone Star State has an uneasy relationship with gambling, with only certain forms that are state-regulated. Texans can play the lottery – featuring draws and scratch cards – which was established in 1991, as well as they can indulge in raffles, charitable bingo, and pull tabs (similar to scratch cards). Parimutuel wagering is permitted on greyhound and horse racing, but this is a lot more restrictive than regular bets in other states.

Texas currently has only one licensed Indian casino, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle in Eagle Pass. Two other casinos, the Tigua operated Speaking Rock Entertainment Center and Naskila Gaming in Livingstone have both been facing litigation issues since 2017.

Casino cruises from Texas into the Gulf of Mexico – heading into international waters to circumvent state law – operated from the late 1980s but have largely declined in popularity.

With such iconic sports franchises such as Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and San Antonio Spurs (NFL, MLB, and NBA, respectively), sports fans in the Lone Star State are crying out for regulated sports betting.

Current legal status

We mentioned that dog and horse racing is legal, and bets can be placed in Texas at race tracks. However, this differs from fixed-odds betting in that the bets are collected in a pool, results are ranked and the payout isn’t determined until the pool is closed – ie when all bets are placed.

Online sports betting remains illegal – frustrating millions of fans. A bill to regulate and legalize sports betting was proposed by Rep. Eddie Lucio III in 2019 – this could have been brought into effect by the start of this year, but it is facing legal, political and some would say biblical obstacles. It would need to be passed with a two-thirds majority – no mean feat.

The bipartisan nature of US politics comes into play – Lucio is a Democrat and Texas remains firmly Republican, despite the efforts of Beto O’Rourke and others. Talk of legalization of any kind of gambling tends to provoke the religious right. Moreover, the Baptist church is strong in Texas and sees gambling as dangerous and discriminatory in its ill effects, preying on poor and desperate people.

As noted above, the Texas lottery is a legal form of gambling and attracts millions of players. As well as charity bingo and raffles, Texans can also legally place bets on fantasy sporting events.

The future of sports betting in Texas

While it certainly faces some obstacles, the success of sports betting in other states, especially New Jersey, means that the industry cannot be ignored forever.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of Dallas Mavericks suggests it is only a matter of time before the legislation gets pushed through.

“The bottom line is that it will create needed tax revenue that states will want,” he said.

And it is true, sports betting brings in enormous revenues for states that regulate it. New York looks set to legalize sports betting, and they project a tax revenue of $200 million per year. And with state economies ravaged and running on fumes due to the coronavirus pandemic, that revenue would be most welcome – no amount of bipartisan gamesmanship will affect those figures.

If and when sports betting is legalized in Texas it is almost certain to be an overnight hit. Texans love their sport, with passionate fans of football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer keen to wager on their favorite teams.

Texas may not have made any concrete moves to legalize sports betting, but judging by the success other states have had in implementing it, and the enjoyment fans experience, many think regulation could be around the corner. How far around the corner is another matter.

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