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Texas Senate Won’t Take Up Gambling Expansion In 2023, Patrick Says

Written By Derek Helling on May 15, 2023
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Even the infamous Ephemeroptera or “mayfly” can claim a longer life span than the excitement around the potential expansion of legal gambling in Texas for 2023. Like the inevitable end of those insects’ 24-hour lifespan, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly put an end to any frivolity.

Despite Texas House passage of multiple pieces of legislation last week, it seems the proposals have already met their doom. Patrick is adamant that he won’t allow the Texas Senate to even consider the bills and resolutions in 2023.

Short-lived enthusiasm in Texas for gaming expansion

Like the emergence of a mayfly from its larvae state, the Texas House sent forth multiple pieces of gambling expansion legislation last week. Among them were potential constitutional amendments. Together, the proposals would ask voters in the state to decide on a couple of issues.

One of them is whether to legalize online sports betting in the state. The other poses a similar question on the matter of brick-and-mortar casinos. The House also passed enabling legislation that would take effect should Texans approve those amendments at the ballot box.

Those House votes represent progress on the issue of gambling expansion in Texas. It’s the first time either chamber of the Texas legislature has approved any such measures pertaining to casinos and sports betting. For as historic as they are in the long run, they’ll likely come to naught in the short term.

Patrick still acts as the gatekeeper for all legislation coming into the Texas Senate. He remains oppositional on this matter.

Patrick says gaming expansion legislation is going nowhere

According to Eleanor Dearman of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Patrick insists that the votes to pass gambling expansion proposals don’t exist in the Texas Senate. However, Patrick has also stated it’s a politically partisan issue in his view.

This is reminiscent of Patrick’s stances from previous years on the same subject. It also means as long as Patrick is in charge of the Texas Senate, any gaming expansion legislation will have to satisfy his wishes first and foremost.

The chances of pulling that off this year seem ever more remote. The legislative session ends May 29. Getting Patrick to do a complete 180 in two weeks’ time is a tall order. Even if Patrick does relent, that’s no guarantee he won’t still be right about the legislation not getting enough votes in the Senate.

What it would require to move this legislation is unclear. In the past, Patrick has stated that he is opposed to gambling expansion on moral grounds. While he has not made that as much of an issue in this term, the result is the same regardless.

Still, House passage of gaming expansion proposals might signal that pressure will mount on Patrick to cooperate in 2025. It will probably take more voices from within Texas’ Republican ranks like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry pressing Patrick on the issue to get him to move.

While there is more reason for optimism in terms of future Texas casinos than ever before, that optimism should still be quite reserved. Like the millions of mayfly carcasses that end up on the ground around the Mississippi River every summer, the 2023 version of Texas gambling expansion bills have joined the fray of legislation that lived for but a moment.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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