Feb 2, 2023 - News

A look at the effort to legalize sports betting in Texas

Illustration of a slot machine featuring a basketball, baseball and football, ending in three dollar signs.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A coalition of sports betting platforms has joined forces with pro sports teams across the state in an effort to legalize mobile sports betting in Texas.

Driving the news: The Sports Betting Alliance, which includes FanDuel, DraftKings and the state's NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS and baseball franchises, backed a sports betting bill in the legislature on Monday.

  • The group hopes to capitalize on the publicity generated by the upcoming Super Bowl — reminding Texans that they can't legally bet on the game unless they leave the state.

Flashback: Efforts to legalize sports betting in 2021 came up short. A bill received a Texas House committee hearing but never got voted out — and never got a hearing in the state Senate.

The big picture: The new effort is focusing on sports betting mobile apps, as opposed to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.

The other side: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, has made it clear that he opposes sports betting in Texas.

State of play: Current Texas law allows for a lottery, charitable bingo, parimutuel betting on horse and dog racing, and gambling at three tribe-owned casinos — in Eagle Pass, El Paso and Livingston.

  • Poker rooms are also open across the state, though the legality is murky.

Context: Sports betting is legal in 36 states and Washington, D.C., according to the American Gaming Association.

  • The Houston bedding magnate known as "Mattress Mack" has made several large sports bets in the last few years, usually by going over the border to Louisiana.

Between the lines: Lobbyists pushing the legalization effort stress that this year's bill will include third-party identity verification similar to that used in online loan applications.

  • The alliance has also pointed out that Texans are already betting illicitly on sports. Legalizing sports betting would simply move the industry out of the shadows and allow officials to regulate and tax it.
  • "This is not an expansion of gambling," former Gov. Rick Perry, who's been hired as a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance, recently told the Texas Tribune. "It's going on, it's gonna continue to go on and the state of Texas needs to regulate it and make sure that its citizens' information is protected."

What they're saying: "Texas has the opportunity to be a leader in the legal mobile sports betting landscape and the time is now to combat the illegal offshore market, protect consumers, and generate revenue without raising taxes on Texans," alliance spokesperson Cara Gustafson tells Axios.

The intrigue: The lobbying effort to legalize sports gambling is completely separate from the push to legalize resort casinos, another issue before the legislature this session.


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