Texas sports betting legislation makes major strides despite expected 'death on arrival' in Senate

Adam Winkler Image
Friday, May 12, 2023
Texas House OKs online sports betting bill, but Senate failure likely
A political expert says legal sports wagering legislation reached the furthest it has in the Texas Legislature in 20 years.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday to create a constitutional amendment legalizing wagering on certain sporting events.

The measure allows Texas voters to approve online sports betting through a statewide ballot in November. However, the measure might never make it that far.

Both House Joint Resolution 102 and House Bill 1942, which is backed by an alliance of Texas pro sports teams, received enough passing votes from state representatives in Austin.

HJR 102, filed by Jeff Leach, R-Plano, needed 100 votes, which is two-thirds majority, because it would amend the state constitution. It received 101 of a possible 143 votes during Thursday's vote following a third reading. Its enabling legislation, HB 1942, passed 82-51 on its third reading.

According to the Texas Constitution, the legislation, otherwise known as Senate Joint Resolution 39, must now pass that chamber also with a two-thirds majority. However, Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said clearing the Senate, a chamber of which Dan Patrick is president, is very unlikely.

"Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick indicated months ago that he was opposed to this legislation and didn't see it as having any prospects in the Senate," Jones told ABC13 Thursday afternoon. "He has said nothing about changing his mind, and the votes in the House, where Republicans are split, would solidify Patrick's decision to stick to his guns and block this legislation. He has said from the beginning that he's only going to pass it if it has overwhelming Republican support, so when this bill goes to the Senate, it's dead on arrival."

However, despite its grim forecast on the Senate floor, sports gambling legislation has made progress in Texas. Just clearing the House is a victory, Jones said.

"This is the furthest any gambling legislation has advanced in 20 years," Jones noted. "And so, from the glass half-full perspective, it's a real achievement for pro-gambling forces to get a two-thirds vote in the House."

HJR 102 and its companion SJR 39 dedicates state tax revenue generated from the wagering on sporting events to property tax relief.

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SEE ALSO: UH study finds widespread support for casinos, sports gambling in TX

Overall, 75% of the 1,200 surveyed said they'd support the passage of the legislation - including all political parties, races, genders, and those who identify as born-again Christians.

Former Gov. Rick Perry 'quite confident' Texans would vote to legalize sports betting

The Lone Star State is nowhere close to legal sports wagering, but that all could change in the next legislative session as the push to make that happen has gained the least likely of allies.