Texas Sports Betting Effort is a Mess; Hope is Fading

Texas Sports Betting Effort is a Mess; Hope is Fading
© USA Today

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick could have summed up the plight of those hoping to see legalized sports betting in Texas anytime soon with three simple words: “Bless your heart.”

Patrick wasn’t quite that succinct this week when he was point-blank on the subject, but that infamous Texas maxim is all one needs to know about the chances for legalized sports betting in the Lone Star State during the current legislative session.

The cabal of forces pushing for Texas to join those states who have allowed sports betting since the 2018 Supreme Court decision appear to have all the competence and organization of two buggy owners in a one-horse town.

They messed up in Texas.


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Patrick is the most important official in the state when it comes to passing legislation, given his role in presiding over the Texas Senate. Nothing gets to the floor, never mind to the governor’s desk, without his blessing, if not full-throated support. Any legislation that would begin the process to allow casino and legalized sports betting in 2021 is buzzard bait.

"We are nowhere close to having the votes for it," Patrick told KFYO Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty Tuesday. "We don't even have a bill that has been filed in the Senate on the issue. When you don't even have a sponsor, it's not even a bill you spend much time on or think about,” Patrick said. "I've never been in favor of it.”

If that isn’t clear enough, perhaps the math will help. The GOP holds an 18-13 majority in the Senate and 21 votes are needed to move a constitutional amendment forward to voters that would legalize gambling.

Five professional sports teams in Texas formed a coalition to push for legalized sports betting. The Dallas Cowboys, Stars, Mavericks, FC Dallas and the Texas Rangers make up what is called the Sports Betting Alliance, along with several betting platforms, the Dallas Morning News reported.

’Alliance’ Cracks Over National Anthem

However, that coalition cracked Wednesday after Mavericks owner Mark Cuban publicly announced that the national anthem was no longer being played before his team’s home games.

That news drew fierce negative reaction. The NBA quickly issued a statement reinforcing its long-standing policy that “all teams will play the national anthem” before games. The NHL Stars — who play their home hockey games at the American Airlines Arena along with the Mavericks — and MLB Rangers issued public statements that supported playing the national anthem before games.

Cuban, meanwhile, flip-flopped after the NBA’s rebuke and told ESPN “there was never any final decision” made not to play the anthem. It had not been played at any of the team’s 13 home games prior to Wednesday night.

You’re two sandwiches short of a picnic if you think Patrick is going to discover a newfound affinity for sports betting or the revenue it produces after that.

Now, instead of pondering a comprehensive, unified single piece of legislation that would begin the process of allowing voters in Texas to decide the fate of legalized sports betting, Patrick was taking the political layup given to him by Cuban and posterizing him with it.

Cuban Taken to Task

Patrick blasted Cuban on Twitter, posting "Your decision to cancel our National Anthem at @dallasmavs games is a slap in the face to every American & an embarrassment to Texas. Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it. We ARE the land of free & the home of the brave.”

Patrick also plans to file a bill in the Texas Senate that will require the national anthem be played at all events that receive public funding.

"It is hard to believe this could happen in Texas, but Mark Cuban's actions this week made it clear that we must specify that in Texas we play the national anthem before all major events,'' Patrick said. "In this time when so many things divide us, sports are one thing that bring us together — right, left, Black, white and brown.''

In many states, sports betting enjoys bipartisan support. In Texas, Republican support is a must. One need not be Jake Tapper or Karl Rove to realize NOT playing the national anthem is perhaps the quickest way possible to antagonize Republican legislators anywhere, never in mind a deep Red State such as Texas.

Even the “revenue” argument was dunked on by Patrick during his KFYO interview. He said the tax money raised by legalized gambling would fund the state’s $125 billion budget for “half a day.”

Texas Loss Offers Lessons For All

The events of this week offer some harsh lessons for those hoping to bring legalized gambling to Texas and elsewhere.

One, everyone must be on the same page. The idea of an alliance is not new, but this one does not include any of the major-league teams from Houston or San Antonio, although the group said more teams could be added. It was foolish to announce such a group without having every major-league team in the state on board, along with all the potential gaming providers.

Two, the same arguments used in places such as Rhode Island and Michigan won’t necessarily work in Texas or Florida.

Some states are not as hungry for revenue as others.

The best “argument” for legalized gambling has always been the simplest — individual freedom.

Gambling is legal and is something that responsible adults should be allowed to do if they chose to do so. The practice of legal sports betting is smartly regulated and is much more high-tech than low class.

Three, you won’t win hearts and minds in Texas by not playing the Star-Spangled Banner before NBA games and then bragging about it.

A simple push along those lines might go a bit further in a state like Texas.

In addition to playing the national anthem.

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