Texas Lawmakers File State’s Fourth Sports Betting Bill

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on February 25, 2021

Despite comments from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, lawmakers continue to push forward with efforts to change the state constitution to allow for sports betting in Texas.

The most recent effort comes from Rep. Dan Huberty (R), who filed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment.

Earlier this month, while speaking on a local radio show, Patrick said sports betting was “not going to see the light of day” in Texas.

So far, there have been four bills filed in 2021, all pertaining to the legalization of sports wagering.

Multiple Texas sports betting bills in play

The most recent bill, HB 20270, introduced by Huberty, proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to legalize Texas sports betting.

The other three bills filed were all from Democratic members of the House and Senate.

  • H 1121 filed by Rep. Harold Dutton (D) in January.
  • SJR 36, filed by Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D) in February.
  • SJR 39, filed by Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D) on Feb. 23.

With an 18-13 Republican-controlled Senate, Democrats would need help from eight colleagues across the aisle. To send a constitutional amendment to voters, 21 votes are needed.

Professional sports teams back legislative efforts in Texas

Several powerful allies in the form of professional sports teams have come to the defense of sports betting. Most recently, the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Dallas Mavericks (NBA), and Texas Rangers (MLB) have all banned together to push the issue through the state legislature.

Charlotte Jones, executive vice-presidents and chief brand officer for the Dallas Cowboys, told The Dallas Morning News:

“Unregulated and illegal sports gambling is already taking place in the State of Texas. Legalized sports betting would regulate the industry and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for the state which will help fund critical programs without raising taxes.”

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Casino industry also sees value in legal Texas gambling

On top of legislative efforts and the backing of professional sports teams, the casino industry is also targeting Texas.

Before his death, the owner of Las Vegas Sands, billionaire Sheldon Adelsonhired eight Texas lobbyists ahead of the state’s legislative session. Additionally, Adelson and his wife also donated $4.5 million to Republican campaigns for the state House during the 2020 cycle.

Political contributions don’t necessarily correlate to passing legislation. But they can be viewed as conversation starters. Politicians in California, Florida, and Texas have received several campaign contributions from gaming operators like DraftKings and FanDuel, who view the three as lucrative hubs for sports betting.

Legalized sports wagering in Texas must still navigate a gauntlet of opposition. But the introduction of another new bill, this time by a Republican party member, shows there is legislative interest across the aisle.

Photo by Roger Steinman / Associated Press
Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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