The FOMO over legal sports betting in Texas is genuine, not that anyone doubted that. A recent press release from the Texas Sports Betting Alliance (TSBA) provides more evidence to support that statement.
The data also suggest that a public referendum on expansion of legal gambling in Texas might get a resounding approval should such a vote ever take place. The devil will be in the details of not only such a referendum but getting to that point in Texas, too.
People in Texas want to bet on sports
Texas is home to:
- One club in the National Women’s Soccer League, one team in the National Hockey League, and one Women’s National Basketball Association franchise
- Three Major League soccer clubs
- Two Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and National Football League franchises
In addition, numerous universities in the state participate in athletics in conferences like the Big 12 and SEC. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of reason for Texans to want to legally gamble on sporting events.
The TSBA, a consortium consisting of political figures, online sportsbook operators, and sports teams in Texas recently put out a statement confirming that is indeed the case. The statement cites data from GeoComply, the foremost location verification service in the United States.
According to the TSBA, there were over 1.1 million attempts to place wagers using online sportsbooks legal in other states by people in Texas from Sept. 1 through Oct. 23 of 2023. Furthermore, during the last three games of the 2023 American League Championship Series, GeoComply recorded almost 21,000 such attempts.
The TSBA says that represents an increase of almost 69% compared to the same timeframe in 2022. The fact that the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers faced off in the 2023 ALCS played a big part in that spike.
No one has ever questioned the demand for legal online sports betting in Texas. The questions all revolve around whether that can ever become a thing that happens. There is a lot that lawmakers in Austin need to work out.
Why all those betting attempts were just attempts
The reason why GeoComply blocked all those gambling attempts is quite simple; online gambling including sports betting remains illegal in Texas. That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening; illegal offshore sportsbooks will gladly take some of that sweet Texan sports betting cash. However, operators in the regulated space stay away.
That isn’t an ideal situation for them, however. That’s why they are part of the TSBA. They’d love to have access to the millions of sports fans in Texas who are of age and interested in betting. On the matter of principle, though, they won’t do so until Texas changes its gambling laws.
There have been multiple attempts to do just that. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick dowsed hopes for the most recent attempts in May. However, the TSBA cheered progress at the same time. The Texas House of Representatives approved a potential constitutional amendment that would have gone before voters in 2024.
The House also approved an enabling law that would have taken effect if Texas voters had approved the amendment. That was the high tide for both items, however. Patrick refused to bring either up for a vote in the Texas Senate.
The Texas legislature only meets in odd-numbered years. Thus, the next chance to try for enactment will be 2025. Whether that year’s session will see any more progress than 2023’s did remains unclear.
The drama over Texas gambling expansion
There are two facets of the situation that complicate the premise of expanding legal gambling in Texas the most. Those are resistance by people like Patrick on what they claim are moral grounds and debate on just how expansive that expansion should be.
In the 2023 session, Patrick explained that his reason for not bringing the gaming expansion measures up for a vote in the Senate was that the votes to pass the proposals did not exist. In the past, however, Patrick has been clear that he opposes gambling expansion.
If enough members of the Texas Senate are vociferous in their support, they might be able to strong-arm Patrick into compliance. Getting that level of support in the Texas Senate will depend on what a proposal contains.
A narrow proposal that merely authorizes online sports betting might stand the best chance. At the same time, the gambling industry has tried to push a broader measure that would also authorize brick-and-mortar commercial casinos.
That might be a bridge too far for some legislators in Austin. The TSBA and other groups have over a year to try to figure out what the sweet spot might be. Due to the demand that the TSBA demonstrated, online sports wagering is sure to be part of it.