Mar 17, 2022 - News

Texans bet on NCAA tournament, even as legalization efforts fail

Reproduced from American Gaming Association; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

Time to scribble out your NCAA basketball bracket and ante up $10 for that office pool, or that single buck to the family pot.

The big picture: In Texas, despite unified support from professional teams — including Austin FC — and a big lobbying effort last legislative session, bills to legalize sports betting have failed so far.

  • The Texas Sports Betting Alliance, a partnership between teams and gambling outfits, continues to urge lawmakers to legalize and regulate betting to "promote freedom" and raise hundreds of millions of dollars for state spending on education and health care.
  • Las Vegas Sands alone likely spent more than $10 million on lobbying and ad buys during the 2021 legislative session to promote gambling in Texas.
  • And in January, the Sands launched a new PAC, with initial funding of $2.3 million from Miriam Adelson, the widow of GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson.

Between the lines: Opposition came from the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission and tribal interests whose own gaming operations were threatened by wider competition in the state.

  • The death knell came when Lt. Gov Dan Patrick early in the session said the issue would "not see the light of day."
  • He argued betting revenue would add little to the state's $125 million budget and isn't a priority for the state's Republican voters, who tend to oppose expanding opportunities to gamble.

Yes, but: That doesn't mean Austinites aren't placing their bets.

Zoom out: About 45 million Americans plan to wager $3.1 billion on the 2022 men's tournament, according to research conducted by the American Gaming Association.

  • Around 36.5 million of those Americans (81%) plan to wager via bracket contests, while 20.9 million (46%) expect to bet outside of brackets.

The bottom line: "There's no doubt this year will generate the highest legal handle in March Madness history," says Bill Miller, CEO and president of the American Gaming Association.

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