Texas Houses Advances Sports Betting Bill, Tough Road Awaits in Senate

Posted on: May 11, 2023, 04:50h. 

Last updated on: May 12, 2023, 01:16h.

By a vote of 101-42, the Texas House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would allow for a constitutional referendum on sports betting.

Texas sports betting
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, shown above. He could nix sports betting legislation that passed the state House. (Image: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Crossing the threshold of 100 affirmative votes was essential, because under Texas state law, two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the legislature are needed before amendments to the state constitution can be put to voters.  The vote on sports wagering was held a day after casino gaming legislation fell short of the 100 votes needed to advance it to the Senate. Another vote on that issue is expected imminently.

The Texas House vote on regulated sports betting stirred optimism that one of the gaming industry’s most coveted states could finally open its doors.

This is a huge day for Texas sports fans. For the first time ever, the Texas House considered and passed a bill to legalize sports betting,” said Sports Betting Alliance President Jeremy Kudon in a statement. “This vote leaves no room for doubt – legalizing sports betting is popular in the Lone Star State. Texans want and deserve the freedom to safely and legally bet on their favorite teams, and they are one chamber away from getting it.”

The Texas Sports Betting Alliance chapter is supported by the state’s professional sports franchises and the gaming industry. Former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is a spokesman for the group.

Texas Senate Tougher Test

The sports betting legislation now moves to the Texas Senate, where passage is expected to be much harder to come by.

That chamber comprises 31 members — 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats — meaning at least 20 votes are needed for the two-thirds majority. Some Texas political experts believe the sports betting package won’t even advance beyond committee in the Senate, and if it does, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX) will ensure its death on the floor.

Patrick opposes gaming expansion in Texas in casinos and for sports wagering, and has consistently said the votes aren’t there in the Senate for either bill to advance to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

With Patrick’s view on gaming well-known, there’s already speculation that for sports betting to survive in the Senate, Texas sports team owners — namely Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Tilman Fertitta of the Houston Rockets — need to ratchet up efforts to get senators on board with the legislation. The two are among the most vocal supporters of Texas permitting sports wagering.

Time of the Essence

Time isn’t on the side of the Texas gaming bills. The 88th legislature has been in session since January 10, ending on May 29. That’s Memorial Day, meaning that after today, there are 11 working days left before the holiday.

With Patrick residing as president of the Senate, it’s unlikely he’ll call late-night or emergency meetings, or extend the legislative session simply for casino and sports betting bills.

Analysts and industry observers recently noted the best hope for sports wagering to begin in Texas would be in 2025.