Texas Legislature Looking at Casino, Sports Betting Legalization

A Texas Senator pre-filed a bill seeking to amend the state’s constitution to allow gambling at a limited number of resorts and facilities licensed by a state gambling commission.

Long Way to Go

Sen. Carol Alvarado pre-filed bill TX SJR17 to amend the Texas constitution and legalize casinos two months before the legislative session is set to begin. The bill also provides for the legalization of sports betting if the constitutional amendment is approved by two-thirds of the legislature and state voters at a November 2023 referendum.

The news that Texas legislators take an interest in legalizing casinos and sports wagering is encouraging to the proponents of sports betting and gambling expansion, who could not see efforts materialize in 2022 as the legislature did not meet. And the legislative session is still to begin.

Commencing on January 10, 2023, legislators in the Lone Star State will have until May 29, 2023, to pass all the bills, including the one sponsored by Sen. Alvarado, TX SJR17, which is seeking to authorize and regulate casino gaming and sports betting.

Scarce in Details

Formulated as a proposition “to foster economic development and job growth and to provide tax relief and funding for education and public safety … [by] authorizing and regulating casino gaming [and] authorizing sports wagering,” the bill is scarce in details, especially in its part related to sports betting legalization.

TX SJR17 will legalize slots and table games and provides for a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue for table games and a 25% tax rate on gross gaming revenue from slot machines. For sports wagering, the bill does not propose a tax rate. The bill does not specify whether sports betting will be in person, online, or both, either.

Provided that the bill that was pre-filed by Sen. Alvarado receives the approval of 66% of Texas lawmakers, the bill will head to the November 2023 ballot for approval by Texas voters, before heading to Gov. Abbott’s desk for final signature, projecting an official launch at the earliest some time in 2024.

Earlier in November, the issue of sports betting legalization in Texas was brought to the fore in an interview with the head of Sports at Caesars Entertainment, Kenneth Fuchs, who talked about the impactful change sports betting would bring to the state.

Last year, two bills, HB2070 and HJR97, both sponsored by Rep. Dan Huberty, proposed constitutional amendments to legalize sports betting, stalled and did not receive a vote in either the Texas House or Senate before the end of the 2021 legislative session, ending the hopes of sports betting proponents that Texas would finally come out of the Dark Ages.

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