Legislation to put Texas sports betting legalization in front of voters advanced Wednesday on second reading in the House, but work still needs to be done.
After debate on the House floor, HJR 102 advanced by a 97-44 vote. It needs 100 votes to pass the 150-member chamber by the two-thirds vote required of constitutional amendments.
Rep. Jeff Leach told PlayUSA he expects to get the three additional votes to pass the constitutional amendment Thursday.
“I’m confident I will get there tomorrow,” Leach said. “We are working hard.”
He wouldn’t necessarily need to sway any no votes to pass the resolution. He could add from nine votes not made on Wednesday’s second reading.
Leach elaborated while discussing HB 1942, which sets up the framework for online Texas sports betting through professional sports teams. The enabling legislation, which only requires a majority vote, passed 84-52 on second reading.
“Members, I’m going to try again tomorrow on the constitutional amendment. I’m hopeful and expectant that we can maybe get over 100 tomorrow. And if so, this is the enabling legislation that will provide that strong, regulatory, trustworthy framework that will achieve all of those objectives that I just brought up.”
Texas sports betting details
Key details of the Texas online sports wagering bills advanced by committee include:
- Online-only sports betting (no retail component) regulated by the Texas Lottery Commission.
- Online sports wagering platforms pay $500,000 for a three-year mobile sports betting license, renewable for $100,000
- 10% tax rate.
- Platforms must partner with an eligible professional Texas sports team.
- 2% of tax collected goes to a problem gambling and addiction grant fund.
- Requires the use of official league data for in-game betting.
- Allows betting on college sports, esports, and amateur athletic events such as the Olympics, but not youth sports.
- Permits operators to deduct promotional credits and the federal excise tax from gross wagering revenue.
- Defines sports bets as single-game wagers, teaser wagers, parlays, over-unders, moneylines, pools, exchange wagering, in-game wagering, in-play wagers, proposition wagers and straight wagers.
In a floor amendment, Leach added NASCAR as a potential licensee and assigned 98% of sports betting revenue to property tax relief.
Texas sports betting still unlikely to pass Senate
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst introduced companion Texas sports betting legislation to Leach’s. But the bill has gone nowhere in the Senate.
And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has repeatedly dismissed the possibility of Texas passing sports betting or casino legislation this session.
Last month, Patrick told the Dallas Morning News:
“We don’t have the votes for casinos. There are not enough votes for sports betting and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, in opposing the HJR, made the argument that there was no use fighting over this when it was going nowhere in the Senate.
“This is one of these things where we know it’s not going to go anywhere across the hall. … From my vantage point, this is something that we can wait for. … We need to think about where we want to go longterm as a state, how we build something together, how it’s good for suburban areas, urban areas, rural areas, and we’re going to have some disagreement. But we should be doing the work together. We should never be handed a set of pages and told this is what you need to do.”
Texas casino legislation faces more difficult path
The Texas House also considered a constitutional amendment to put the question of legalizing brick-and-mortar casinos in front of voters.
However, Rep. Charlie Geren’s HJR 155 did not fare as well as the sports betting legislation. It advanced on second reading by a vote of 92-51.
With more than 50 no votes, the casino constitutional amendment needs a lot of help to pass the House on third reading.
Las Vegas Sands and Fertitta Entertainment have lobbied heavily for commercial casinos in Texas.
Following the poor showing for the HJR, Rep. John Kuempel asked to postpone consideration of enabling legislation HB 2843.