Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s take on the mood in the state’s Senate regarding gambling expansion legislation is the same as it has been throughout 2023. It may take a Texas-sized effort to move him off that position, too.
As the Texas legislature is wrapping up a series of special sessions, it doesn’t appear that gaming expansion will be part of the agenda. Patrick is adamant that any such would not receive adequate support in the Texas Senate.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick reiterates his read of the room
In a recent interview with CBS News Dallas, Patrick spoke about the legislative issues the Texas Senate is taking on during the cavalcade of special sessions. The Texas legislature normally only meets for a few months in odd-numbered years.
The state’s constitution allows the governor to call the legislature into special sessions, however. So far, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has done so four times in 2023. Patrick, whose role includes serving as the president of the Texas Senate, said he doesn’t expect a fifth.
During the interview, the subject of legislation to put the issue of gambling expansion to Texas voters came up. Patrick offered the same comment that he has throughout this year on that subject.
“My experience and my knowledge is that we aren’t even close to having 15 votes or 16 votes for casinos,” Patrick said. “When the [regular] session was over, there was not a cry from voters calling their senators or House members, gosh, we didn’t pass, I needed this bill.”
Patrick added that people interested in seeing such legislation move forward will have to work for that result.
“Big things don’t happen overnight,” Patrick explained. “You got to get in the trenches and grind it out.”
Given the layover between the end of the special sessions and the next regular session, gaming expansion advocates should have some opportunity to sway minds. It’s unclear what exactly that will take, however.
Getting to 15 or 16 votes in approval of Texas gambling expansion
While the Texas House of Representatives approved a potential constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting earlier this year, it was a complete non-starter in the Texas Senate. It seems that before Patrick will allow such a bill to see the floor, he will have to be convinced that there are those 15 or 16 votes out there.
Getting to that number could be a tall order. Even the Senate sponsor of the bill did not push for it in the regular session. Additionally, six of the 31 seats in the Texas Senate are up for grabs in 2024. In two of those races, the incumbent is not seeking reelection.
That means parties interested in putting friendly candidates into those seats have several balls to juggle. At the same time, they will need to recruit multiple current members of the Texas Senate to their cause as well.
To date, most Texas Senators have not gone on the record as far as whether they oppose or support gambling expansion. Thus, it’s difficult to judge how close or far from getting to the magic number gaming advocates are.
Until they reach that number, though, Patrick seems determined to let the status quo remain.