Apr 5, 2023 - Politics

Texas' sports betting bills have slim hopes

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Hopes of legalizing mobile sports betting in Texas during the current legislative session are fading after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he won't bring a bill to the floor without the support of Senate Republicans.

The latest: A pair of mobile sports betting bills, both authored by Republicans, advanced through the House Committee on State Affairs earlier this week by 9-3 votes.

Yes, but: Even if those bills pass the House, Patrick has made it clear they won't get a vote in the Senate.

  • "Unless I have 15 to 16 Republicans, meaning it's a Republican-driven bill because we're a Republican-driven state, I'm not bringing a bill to the floor," Patrick said recently, per KXAN.
  • "I need Republican consensus, otherwise, it's a Democrat bill."

The big picture: A well-funded coalition of sports betting companies and Texas pro sports teams has been pushing to legalize online sports betting.

  • The state constitution restricts gambling, so even if a bill passed, it would require a statewide referendum in November.
  • A poll by the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs found that 75% of Texans support legalizing more gambling.

Zoom out: Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states can decide whether to legalize sports betting, 31 states have passed laws allowing it.

The intrigue: The fight over legalized gambling has become the nexus where Texas Republicans' pro-business ethos conflicts with conservative family values.

By the numbers: GeoComply, a technology that identifies users where sports betting is illegal, blocked more than 73,000 betting attempts from Texas during the opening week of March Madness, according to the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, which has been lobbying in favor of the sports betting bills.

  • Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates that Texans wager more than $6 billion illegally every year — through local bookies or offshore betting sites.

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