Texas Sports Betting

There’s no denying that the buzz in gambling is with sports betting right now. In less than two years, the US has gone from one state to roughly two dozen that offer or have legalized wagering on sports. While that number will likely rise in the coming years, it is unlikely to include Texas any time soon. But there may actually be some momentum now deep in the heart of Texas.

This page goes through the status of sports betting in Texas, its history and its outlook. If you are interested in the trajectory and prospects of betting on sports in the Lone Star State, you are in the right place.

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Is sports betting legal in Texas?

No. Sports betting is not legal in Texas at this time. Although the state has had a few chances to legalize the activity since the downfall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, the Legislature has not allowed any bills to progress past the introductory stages. Even the proposed compact renewals with the state’s one tribal casino specifically prohibit the tribe from offering sports betting onsite.

When will Texas regulate sports betting?

It is extremely difficult to know when Texas will regulate sports betting. Although recent polls show that the majority of Texans are either in favor of or indifferent about allowing it, Texas lawmakers remain resolute in keeping Texas free of legal betting. With that said, there have been three proposed sports betting amendments in the post-PASPA legislative sessions:

  • HJR 61 (2019) — proposed by Eddie Lucio III — died in Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee
  • HB 1121 (2021) — proposed by Harold Dutton — referred to State Affairs Committee in March 2021. The Legislature ran out of time to advance it.
  • HB 2070 (2021) — proposed by Dan Huberty — considered by State Affairs Committee. Again, the Legislature ran out of time to advance it. Because the Texas Legislature meets only in odd-numbered years, sports betting in Texas is a dormant issue until 2023 at the earliest.

For its part, Huberty’s bill put the question to the voters in Texas, while Dutton’s simply moved to change the existing law. However, given the political realities of the state, was alwats unlikely that HB 1121 or HB 2070 would have much of a chance, even though several Texas professional sports team owners support legal sports betting. The existing establishment has worked to defeat every single gambling expansion proposal since 1993. With the exception of the session in 1997, every session since 1993 has seen casino or gambling legislation under consideration, and none of it has passed.

Progress in Texas is difficult because the state constitution bans gambling, meaning any legislation would require a two-third vote by the Legislature and then majority support when put to voters.

Lobbyists pushed hard in 2021 to legalize sports betting and casinos in Texas. Dallas has emerged as a coveted spot to eventually build casinos.

Texas also doesn’t need sports betting in the same way that other states do. Its tremendous resources, high population and general government austerity mean that the state budget deficits are not unmanageably high on a yearly basis. The removal of the most common driver for gambling expansion — a need for tax revenue — means that legislators are not motivated to accept more gambling, which carries, at least in the perception of some, baggage. There were budget shortfalls in 2021, but not as greater as originally forecast.

But perhaps for the first time ever, there is hope.

Said Sen. Carol Alvarado (D) to the Dallas Morning News: “I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been.  …We’ve known all this is a long-term attempt.”

Does Texas have legal online sportsbooks?

Of course not. Texas’ gambling laws are broad, and one of the state’s definitions of a gambling offense is as follows:

“If someone makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest.”

Until Texas decides to amend this clause and/or provide an exception to the blanket prohibitions on gambling in the state, there’s nothing resembling a legal TX online sports betting option. You may see websites that say something to the contrary, but don’t believe it. The sites that offer sports betting to Texas residents are not based in the United States and come with a slew of problems beyond the legal concerns.

Those problems mostly stem from the fact that they are unknown commodities in business environments that you cannot verify. Even though you might be able to place wagers without any problem, you don’t have any kind of safety net if something does go wrong. You also cannot guarantee that your personal and financial data is safe with these sites. The bottom line is that it is simply not worth it to play right now, as frustrating as that is.

So, related to that, is DraftKings legal in Texas? No, at least not when it comes to sports betting. The same goes for FanDuel Sportsbook. However, the DFS question is another matter entirely.

Can you play daily fantasy sports in Texas?

Yes, for now, but don’t get too comfortable with it as it could disappear at any time.

From the time that DFS launched in the late 2000s, a debate has raged about whether the activity is a game of skill or game of chance. Needless to say, when FanDuel DFS, DraftKings DFS and the other DFS operators began operating in Texas, you had to figure that law enforcement would not ignore it. After all, anything that even smacks of gambling in the state is often subject to intense scrutiny.

It came as no surprise, then, when Attorney General Ken Paxton weighed in on the issue in 2016. He definitively opined that daily fantasy sports is gambling and, thus, illegal under state law. What followed was an interesting corporate response from the two big dogs in the market. FanDuel elected to cease operations in the Lone Star State in order to avoid any kind of legal repercussions. DraftKings, on the other hand, continued to operate and challenged Paxton’s opinion in court. Though DraftKings dropped the challenge in 2018, the situation remains in a sort of frozen conflict, as the DFS site could reintroduce the challenge at any time.

In the meantime, DraftKings continues to welcome new Texan players to the fold. FanDuel, apparently hurting from the lost revenue, launched again in Texas in 2018. This means that Texans can certainly engage in DFS betting if they like. However, whether it continues to be available is far from certain. Here are some of the active DFS apps available in Texas:

  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel
  • Monkey Knife Fight
  • Yahoo!
  • Fantasy Draft
  • PrizePicks
  • SuperDraft
  • StatHero

Who will regulate Texas sports betting?

It’s difficult to say which agency would serve as the regulator over a Texas sports betting industry. There are no obvious choices, as nothing close to sports betting or true gambling occurs outside of tribal lands in the state. The most likely candidate would be the Texas Lottery Commission, which oversees the lottery in the state. It would not be unprecedented for a lottery commission to serve as a de facto gambling commission, as it does in states like Oregon and West Virginia.

Another possibility for regulating sports betting would be the Texas Racing Commission. Texas is home to several horse and greyhound tracks, and given how similar the betting styles are for both types of gambling, it might be a more natural fit. Texas racetracks would also be odds-on favorites as potential sportsbook locations in the state, so it might make the most sense to keep everything in house.

A third option would be to create a new gambling commission out of thin air to regulate sports betting. Lawmakers often like to take this route, since it gives them the opportunity to make a fresh start without some of the baggage that existing agencies have. However, the conversation about the potential regulator is largely a moot point in Texas right now.

How old would I have to be to bet on sports in Texas?

Twenty-one. The bills under consideration in the Texas House of Representatives make it a criminal act either to accept a sports bet from someone under the age of 21 or to place a sports bet on behalf of someone under the age of 21. No matter the final disposition of each bill, there’s no reason to assume that this will change or that subsequent proposals won’t bear the same requirement. For many lawmakers, it would be bad enough if sports betting became legal in Texas at all, let alone if high school seniors could place wagers.

Where would I be able to place legal sports bets in Texas?

Of the two sports betting bills considered in 2021 Texas Legislature, Huberty’s is far more explicit in terms of the locations that would be able to offer sports betting in Texas. Eligible parties to pursue licensure would include the major professional sports teams in the state and Class 1 racetracks under state law. The following organizations (with their stadiums) and racetracks would be eligible:

  • Dallas Cowboys (NFL)
  • Houston Texans (NFL)
  • Texas Rangers (MLB)
  • Houston Astros (MLB)
  • Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
  • Houston Rockets (NBA)
  • San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
  • Dallas Stars (NHL)
  • Austin FC (MLS)
  • FC Dallas (MLS)
  • Houston Dynamo (MLS)
  • Lone Star Park (Class 1 racetrack)
  • Retama Park (Class 1 racetrack)
  • Sam Houston Race Park (Class 1 racetrack)

In addition, each licensee would be permitted to offer betting statewide through a single mobile application. So, potentially, you could place a legal sports bet anywhere in the state. Dutton’s bill only allows for online wagering onsite at the designated locations, a structure similar to the active one in Mississippi. However, given the vast land area of Texas, online sports betting would almost be an imperative for the industry to flourish.

Texas’ lone fully legitimate casino, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle, is not included as an eligible licensee in either bill. Unsurprisingly, tribal representatives are not in favor of the bill in its current incarnation. In all likelihood, their tune would change if they were part of an amendment.

Which online sportsbooks would launch in Texas?

Texas is the second-most populous state in the country, with roughly 29 million residents. Of that 29 million, roughly 75%, or over 21 million, are 18 or older. Thus, Texas is a prime potential market for any company that calls itself a sportsbook.

If Texas sports betting moves forward, the entire phonebook of sports betting companies will likely be looking for a way to do business in the state. Some sports betting companies already have the inside track, however, due to their partnerships or ownerships already active in Texas. If Texas gets online sportsbooks, these companies are the most likely to show up early in the market:

  • Barstool Sportsbook: Barstool is the sportsbook brand for gambling giant Penn National Gaming. Penn National owns two of the Class 1 racetracks in Texas (Retama and Sam Houston), which would put the company in position to own two licenses. Its house brand, Barstool, would likely call one of those tracks home as its license-bearer.
  • DraftKings Sportsbook: The other Penn National license would go to DraftKings. DraftKings sportsbook signed a market access agreement with Penn National in August 2019, and one of the terms of that access was an option for Texas.
  • BetMGM: MGM Resorts, the parent company of BetMGM, has a partnership stretching back to 2018 with Major League Baseball. The gambling giant is the designated “official gaming partner” for the majors, and with two MLB teams in service in Texas, that could clear a path for BetMGM.
  • FanDuel Sportsbook: FanDuel has deals in place with both the NBA and the NHL at the league level. With four total representatives of those leagues in the state, FanDuel sportsbook would likely have several options to choose from.
  • Caesars Sportsbook: Caesars is an A-list name in the sports betting world, and gained even more power when it finalized its acquisition of William Hill in 2021. Dallas has teams for all four major sports leagues and Caesars has premier partnerships with all four leagues.
  • WinStar Casino: The WinStar Casino in Oklahoma is the largest casino in the world and is owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation. Its proximity to Texas in general and Dallas specifically is part of the reason that the casino partnered with the Dallas Cowboys back in September 2018. The Chickasaw Nation also owns the Lone Star Park racetrack, so it might not even need the Cowboys’ help to launch a sportsbook brand in Texas. Neither WinStar nor the Chickasaw Nation is partnered with a technology company at this time, but if things heat up south of the Red River, that could change.

Other companies will certainly be interested in offering online sports betting in Texas, as well. With so many sports teams, there is plenty of opportunity to find a pathway into the state. We’d have to consider the companies above to be the frontrunners, however, due to their existing ties.

If you perform a Google search for sports betting in Texas, though, you may be seeing a very different story than the one we’re telling. Other sites say that there definitively is online sports betting in Texas right now, and there’s no law against it. However, any site that makes this claim is not telling you the whole truth. Online sportsbooks that accept business from Texans at this time are based outside the US and are outside of the state and federal legal systems.

What those sites are basing their statements on is the fact that there is no law that explicitly deals with online sports betting in Texas, one way or the other. However, the blanket gambling law that Texas has is almost certainly sufficient for online gambling. Even if it’s not, you run the risk of security and legitimacy issues if you play offshore. As frustrating as it is, it’s better to refrain from sports betting in Texas right now.

Do I have to be in Texas to bet online?

Assuming that Texas legalizes sports betting, yes. You must be physically inside state lines to place a wager. Every state with legal sports betting requires all bets to be placed from inside its borders. This requirement is due to the Wire Act, the decades-old federal law prohibiting the transmission of wagers across electronic wires or state lines. Though the law’s original purpose was to hamper organized crime, it remains in effect for legal sports betting to this day.

How would I deposit money into an online sports betting account?

Online sportsbooks elsewhere offer many methods for funding an account. Here are the top options:

  • Credit/debit cards
  • Prepaid cards
  • Check/money order
  • Bank wire transfer/e-check/ACH
  • PayPal/Skrill/Neteller
  • PayNearMe
  • Cash at the cage of a casino affiliated with the online sportsbook

Sportsbooks also frequently offer deposit bonuses, so pay attention to bonus codes to claim any such bonuses.

Withdrawal options

Gaining access to winnings is usually fairly simple. Many online sportsbooks in other states allow customers to use similar methods for withdrawal. Popular options include PayPal and similar online payment processors. Sportsbooks also offer bank transfers and e-checks as well as via cash at the casino cage.

What sports will I be able to bet on in Texas?

As Huberty’s bill is written, operators could offer wagering on professional and college sports. Other states with legal sports betting typically feature a multitude of wagering options, including US and international sports. Visit any number of legal sportsbooks, and you will see common betting markets:

  • Auto racing
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Mixed martial arts
  • Soccer
  • Tennis

On top of all this, operators also offer markets on more niche sports, including Australian rules football, cricket, rugby, table tennis and darts.

Betting on Texas sports teams

If Texas ever does legalize sports betting, it would behoove lawmakers to allow bettors to wager on Texas-based teams. After all, the state does feature some of the most recognized professional and college teams in the country. In the major North American professional leagues alone, Texas boasts 11 franchises:

  • Houston Astros (MLB)
  • Texas Rangers (MLB)
  • Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
  • Houston Rockets (NBA)
  • San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
  • Dallas Cowboys (NFL)
  • Houston Texans (NFL)
  • Dallas Stars (NHL)
  • Austin FC (MLS)
  • FC Dallas (MLS)
  • Houston Dynamo (MLS)

If that weren’t enough, Texas also features 12 Division I colleges competing in the FBS and a host of others in the FCS.

  • Baylor (Big 12)
  • TCU (Big 12)
  • Texas (Big 12)
  • Texas Tech (Big 12)
  • Texas A&M (SEC)
  • Houston (AAC)
  • SMU (AAC)
  • North Texas (C-USA)
  • Rice (C-USA)
  • UTEP (C-USA)
  • UTSA (C-USA)
  • Texas State (Sun Belt)

However, though there is a tremendous profit opportunity for college betting, it is not guaranteed that lawmakers will go for it, especially for in-state colleges. HB 2070, the more advanced of the two sports betting bills in the Texas Legislature, does not have such a clause at the moment, but if the bill does move forward, it could easily have one added. The other bill, HB 1121, does not permit betting on in-state teams, and it’s quite conceivable that there could be a joining of concepts if things begin looking positive.

Where Texas sports betting stands

There’s no denying that Texas is full of potential sports bettors. Despite the actions of state lawmakers, Texans continue to indicate that they either support sports betting coming to the state or are indifferent to it. The actions of the Legislature would make more sense if public opinion were more strongly in opposition to gambling expansion, but that’s simply not the case.

Unfortunately, Texas lawmakers just don’t need the money. Without that particular stick, there’s no carrot to dangle in front of them when it comes to sports betting or, frankly, most types of gambling. Opinions may change, but there’s not much reason to hope just yet.

Bart Shirley Avatar
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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a senior evergreen content writer for PlayUSA. He’s been writing and reporting on the gambling industry since 2013. Prior to working for PlayUSA, Shirley was a feature writer for QuadJacks, a site covering issues in poker. He also writes for BonusCodePoker, a poker satire site that lampoons the lighter side of card games. Shirley is a graduate of the MBA program at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business and has a degree in English from Texas A&M University. He grew up in Houston, TX, and lives in Katy, just west of Houston. Shirley is also a former high school teacher. He is married, has one daughter, and practices Brazilian jiu jitsu in his spare time.

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