Report: Texas Pro Teams Back Legal Sports Betting Initiative

Report: Texas Pro Teams Back Legal Sports Betting Initiative
© USA Today

Just like in other states looking to legalize sports betting, professional sports teams in Texas are supporting the effort.

In Texas, five professional sports teams (the Dallas Cowboys, FC Dallas, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers) have launched a new coalition to help legalize sports betting in the state, according to a report by the Dallas Morning News.

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The Sports Betting Alliance, which also has the support of several betting platforms, told the Morning News it is backing legislation to let Texans vote on whether to allow sports betting. More Texas teams will be announced as members in the coming days, the report said.

The creation of the alliance in Texas is similar to the support to legalize sports betting from pro teams in Georgia, Massachusetts and California.

“Unregulated and illegal sports gambling is already taking place in the state of Texas,” Charlotte Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer, said in statement released by the Sports Betting Alliance, according to the Morning News. “Legalized sports betting would regulate the industry and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for the state which will help fund critical programs without raising taxes.”

And it could keep its bettors in the state.

Louisiana casinos look to attract customers from East Texas, including Houston, and Oklahoma’s WinStar World Casino is popular with gamblers from Dallas, 70 miles to the south. The casino is an official partner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Gambling Bills Introduced in Texas

Last month, a pair of gambling-related bills were introduced in Texas, considered one of the most difficult of states in which to advance legalized gaming legislation.

One bill, HB 477, introduced by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D), 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.

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The second bill, HB 1121, introduced by Rep. Harold Dutton (D), 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 would be legal without having a bricks-and-mortar casino partner.

The likelihood of either bill passing is uncertain considering the state has previously shunned most legal gambling, but it does have horse race track and a lottery. Other bills are expected to be filed, including one from Rep. Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican.

“My view is that Texas is going to be one of the 10 last states to allow gambling,” Matt Mackowiak, a GOP consultant and chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said in the Morning News report. “I do think (sports betting is) a lighter lift, and it may be where they end up.”

The Texas Constitution bans gambling, so it would take two bills to legalize sports betting. One bill would amend the constitution, which requires two-thirds of both the House and Senate to approve, and another bill would give the parameters to license and regulate sports betting, the newspaper said. If the amendment passes both chambers, it would then need to be voters approval.

“I think it has a good opportunity to pass,” Huberty told the Morning News. “Why don’t we come out of the dark ages here?”

Teams Line Up to Back Sports Betting

“Fans wagering on the outcome of sporting contests has been happening for years,” said Neil Leibman, president of business operations and chief operating officer for the Texas Rangers, in a statement from the Sports Betting Alliance to the newspaper. “It is time for sports wagering to come out of the shadows so it can be monitored and regulated.”

Under the current version of the Sports Betting Alliance’s bill, the state would sell permits, known as “skins,” to online platforms that partner with a pro sports franchise or horse racetrack. Some skins would allow only for mobile betting while others would permit on-site wagering at stadiums and tracks.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he is in favor of legalizing both sports betting and casinos in Texas.

“I think it’s time,” Cuban said in an email to the Morning News. “It makes no sense for us to force Texans to go to neighboring states to gamble in casinos.”