Eyes Turn to Texas as Sports Betting, Casino Bills Introduced

Eyes Turn to Texas as Sports Betting, Casino Bills Introduced
© USA Today

A pair of gambling-related bills have been introduced in Texas, considered one of the most difficult of states in which to advance legalized gaming legislation.

Despite the World Series of Poker’s Main Event being decided by a game called Texas Hold’em, the Lone Star State has been unfriendly terrain for the gambling industry. Save for a handful of Native American casinos that have tried to operate — the largest is in Eagle Pass, Texas — there are no commercial casinos in Texas, and no online gambling, either.

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The state does have horserace tracks and the lottery.

Two bills introduced this month are attempts to open the discussion on broader gambling. And according to reports, key professional sports teams in Texas support sports betting.

A Look at the Two Bills

One bill, HB 477, introduced by Rep. Joe Deshotel, a Democrat, promotes bricks-and-mortar casinos in certain coastal areas of the state to provide more money for insurance coverage from windstorms and flooding that typically plague certain parts of Texas.

The second bill, HB 1121, introduced by Rep. Harold Dutton, a Democrat, would permit statewide mobile betting with a 6.25% tax rate. The bill, if it became law, would have Texas resemble Tennessee in terms of gambling, meaning online wagering without an attendant bricks-and-mortar casino presence.

The chances of either bill succeeding are uncertain considering the state has been famously inhospitable toward the notion of expanded legal gambling. But with New York considering sports betting legislation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on board, if California, Florida or Texas would add sports betting, the U.S. market would soar.

Check Out: Latest updates and legal Tennessee Sports Betting Sites.

Other States Attract Texas Bettors

As a result of Texas’ resistance to the gaming industry, neighboring states have unabashedly wooed the state’s gamblers.

Louisiana casinos try to attract customers from East Texas, including Houston, and Oklahoma’s giant WinStar World Casino lures gamblers from Dallas 70 miles to the south on Interstate 35. In fact, WinStar is an official partner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Faced with the realities that Texans are traveling out of state to spend their gambling dollars and the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s budget, Texas lawmakers might be more disposed toward considering gambling now than they have been in the past.

In addition to horserace tracks and the lottery, the state has just two tribal casinos. There are also legal social casinos, lottery, bingo and Daily Fantasy Sports options.

Las Vegas Sands, the company headed by the late gaming mogul Seldon Adelson, has recently hired a cadre of lobbyists to advocate on behalf of legalized gaming in the state. Adelson saw Texas as the best remaining opportunity in the U.S. for the type of integrated gambling resort for which his company is famous. Las Vegas Sands owns the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, five casinos in Macau and one in Singapore.