Bills are making their way through House committees and support for expanded gambling venues and sports betting in Texas is at an all-time high. However, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the president of the Senate and he has no appetite for legalized gambling in the state – unless it is a Republican idea with broad GOP support in the Senate.
The Texas House State Affairs Committee recently approved two bills to be sent to the floor of the House for a vote, opening a path for them to be acted on by the Senate and potentially signed into law by the Governor. Governor Abbot has had a sort of fluid response to the issue of expanded gambling – once “wholeheartedly” opposed to it, then open to letting voters decide, and now seemingly leaning more toward sportsbetting but not too excited about casinos.
Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) saw his House Joint Resolution (HJR) 155 approved first and then Rep. John Kuempel’s (R-Seguin) saw his House Bill (HB) 2843 make it through the committee as supporting legislation. The companion bills would authorize destination casino resorts in limited numbers and at specific locations based on the population if Texas voters approve of the idea.
Bills Would Allow Voters to Decide
The bills lay out important frameworks for liberalized gambling in the state which is currently illegal and only allowed grudgingly on Native lands that the state has no control over. The legislation would simply allow voters in Texas to approve a constitutional amendment in November that would allow commercial gambling.
The current bills would allow for two casinos in the Dallas and Fort Worth area along with six others elsewhere in the state.
Some reports indicate that at least 75% of Texans favor being given the choice to decide for themselves. That doesn’t mean that three-quarters of all voting residents favor casino gambling or sports betting, only that they want to decide the issue for themselves.
Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) got his mobile sports betting bill through the committee as well as a separate piece of legislation. This law would set a licensing fee of half a million dollars for mobile sportsbetting sites and levy a 10% tax on revenues.
In a March hearing on the Leach bill, the lawmaker said it would advance “freedom and liberty” in the state and empower tax collectors to make money for the state on an activity that already goes on anyway.
“There are hundreds of our constituents — citizens of all ages, including minors — who right now, especially with March Madness, are placing unsafe, <sic> unsecure, illegal, criminal bets very easily,” Leach said.
Multiple local media outlets reported earlier this week that Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was making the rounds on state broadcasting networks to make the case against any gambling bills lawmakers might be entertaining. According to his own words, it’s not so much a matter of whether or not Texans want to choose, but which side of the aisle the bills originate from or at least who supports them.
Lt. Gov Claims There is No Support for Voter Choice in Senate
According to Texomashomepage.com, the Senate president took a swipe at the House efforts saying there was “zero support” for the idea in the Senate even though one of his top allies in the Senate, a Republican, is sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 39 – a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting if voters were to approve it during the next election.
“Our members have been clear: they’re not in support today. We don’t have any votes in the Senate,” Patrick said. “Couldn’t find one Senator who supported it.”
Playing partisan hardball, Patrick reportedly said: “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,” he said. “I need Republican consensus otherwise, it’s a Democrat bill.”
The Lt. Governor’s political posturing has not slowed down the push to let the people decide and it hasn’t dampened the drive to get the business taken care of. The Texas Destination Resort Alliance issued a statement in support of the bills making it through committee.
Matt Hirsch, a spokesperson for the Alliance said: “The efforts to bring destination resorts to Texas made significant progress with today’s vote. Texans have made it clear that they want destination resorts in Texas, and we are now one step closer to ultimately allowing them to decide on this issue.”
Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban has indicated he’d be open to moving his team to a new home when his current long-term lease comes to an end. A casino resort in Dallas would be an ideal location for the NBA franchise.
There are two very small slots/bingo casinos in the state including Naskila Casino near Livingston. The largest casino is also a native operation near the Mexican border at Eagle’s Pass. Legislation has been written to protect Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino from too much competition all at once by authorizing the tribe to operate any type of game or gambling a commercial operation is allowed to offer.
It’s estimated that Texans leave over $5 billion a year in out-of-state casinos and tribal gambling venues. Millions of visitor trips a year are logged to Oklahoma and other neighboring states with more liberal gambling laws.
Source: Texas House State Affairs Committee passes two bills on resort casinos and mobile sportsbetting, G3 NewsWire, April 5, 2023
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