Texas House Passes Sports Betting Legislation, Puts Pressure On Senate

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 11, 2023
Texas Sports Betting Clears House

The Texas House of Representatives isn’t letting the Senate ignore Texas sports betting legislation any longer.

A Texas constitutional amendment to put the question of legalizing sports betting in front of voters picked up the additional House votes necessary to pass Thursday.

Constitutional amendment HJR 102 passed by a count of 101-42. The enabling legislation HB 1942 then passed 82-51.

It needed 100 votes to clear the two-thirds threshold necessary to approve a constitutional amendment. On Wednesday on second reading, it received 97 votes. But sponsor Rep. Jeff Leach was able to find additional votes by the next day.

There was some drama on the floor as leadership granted a recap of the original computerized vote of 100-43. But, after a delay to get the votes of people not in the room, the vote actually improved.

Leach argued Thursday on the House floor that sports betting was already occurring in Texas. He said the state should decriminalize the activity and provide consumer protections for Texans who want to bet on sports.

“We say in this state that we value freedom and liberty. … We trust the people of Texas. And this joint resolution is the perfect opportunity for us to prove that to them. Realize right now in the state of Texas, our conservative estimates show more than one million Texans – your constituents, friends, family and, yes, your legislative colleagues are placing sports bets every year online.”

It’s the first chamber passage for Texas sports betting legislation. Even if the bill likely won’t go any further this year, that’s a significant step forward.

But moral victories aren’t going to satisfy Texas sports fans who could see legal sports betting taking place in more than 40 states by the next Texas legislative session in 2025.

Sports teams eligible for Texas sports betting license

The Texas sports betting proposal allows for mobile sports wagering applications connected with sports entities in the state.

Each of the following could partner with one interactive sports betting platform provider:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Houston Texans
  • Texas Rangers
  • Houston Astros
  • Dallas Stars
  • Austin FC
  • FC Dallas
  • Houston Dynamo
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Houston Rockets
  • Dallas Wings
  • PGA Tour
  • Lone Star Park (horse racetrack)
  • Sam Houston Race Park (Penn National Gaming)
  • Texas Motor Speedway/NASCAR

The Texas Motor Speedway/NASCAR was added in an amendment Wednesday on the House floor.

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.
  • 98% of tax collected goes to property tax relief.
  • 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 sportsesports, 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.

Pro sports team owners have opportunity

The Senate didn’t need the House to send over sports betting legislation.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst filed companion legislation to Leach’s earlier this session in SJR 39/SB 715.

The Senate has ignored that legislation to date. Not even Kolkhorst has conducted an interview on sports betting since introducing the bill.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who controls the Senate, repeatedly has dismissed the possibility of the Senate passing any Texas gaming bill.

But now that the House has passed Texas sports betting, there’s really just two people that high-profile Texas sports team owners need to convince to get legislation across the finish line – Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott. That’s where the House passage might provide an opportunity.

Most of the professional sports team owners provided quotes for the news release introducing the bill. However, none of the owners showed up for a committee hearing in March when they had the chance to put an exclamation point on their support.

Just maybe Texas sports betting has a chance if team owners such as the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and Houston Rockets’ Tilman Fertitta get in the ear of Patrick and the governor.

The Texas legislative session ends May 29. The Texas legislature only meets every two years. So if sports betting legislation doesn’t reach the finish line this year, its next opportunity is 2025.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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