Houston Democratic Sen. Carol Alvarado pre-filed Senate Joint Resolution 17 (SJR17), a proposed constitutional amendment to be submitted to Texas voters.
Hoping the bill will pass in the next year’s legislative session, the proposal seeks to amend the state constitution to legalize casino gaming and sports betting.
Should the bill pass, it will allow voters to choose whether to legalize casinos and sports betting in the state.
Ground-breaking gambling bill for the conservative state of Texas
If passed, Senate Joint Resolution 17 (SJR17) would legalize casinos and sports betting in Texas, setting the stage for the formation of the Texas Gaming Commission. As in most US states, the commission would regulate commercial gaming within the state, including casinos and sports betting.
The SJR17’s summary states:
“Proposing a constitutional amendment to foster economic development and job growth and to provide tax relief and funding for education and public safety by creating the Texas Gaming Commission, authorising and regulating casino gaming at a limited number of destination resorts and facilities licensed by the commission, authorising sports wagering, requiring occupational licenses to conduct casino gaming, and requiring the imposition of a tax.”
The law would also require a development investment of at least $2 billion in a Dallas-area casino and $1 billion in a Houston-area casino.
The resolution also suggests a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR) from table games and a 25% tax on GGR from slots.
According to PlayTexas, Alvarado’s 2023 legislation reflects 2021’s legislation (SJR49). As the site says:
“SJR17 makes four resort casinos the centerpiece of this legislation. It also allows for smaller casinos and expanded horse and greyhound racing.“
But it makes no reference to online or retail sports betting.
Potential gambling expansion open for discussion next year
As resolutions and bills are regularly pre-filed, they must be discussed among House and Senate members who meet for the legislative session.
Therefore, the legislature should debate Alvarado’s proposal during the 2023 legislative session in Austin, starting Jan. 10 and concluding May 29.
Even if Alvarado’s resolution makes its way through committees, gambling expansion in Texas will face an uphill climb.
The extension would become successful only if a two-thirds majority approves the constitutional amendment of the legislature. It must also be approved by most state voters who will have their say during the Nov. 7, 2023, election.
Hefty obstacles in the way of legal gambling in Texas
Both Gov. Greg Abbott and current Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have been hesitant to confront religious conservatives who are very much against legalizing gambling in the state.
Patrick opposed gambling expansion, and because of that, bills never made it to a vote in either the Texas House or Senate.
Sponsored by Rep Dan Huberty, bills HB2070 and HJR97 proposed constitutional amendments to legalize sports betting in the state but didn’t receive a vote.
Unlike California and Florida, where tribes control the gaming markets, Texas may still be the last large US state on the borderline to allow commercial casino operators. But it won’t happen easily.
One thing is certain, however. Next year will be a critical one in terms of the potential gambling legalization.