Texas has a gambling problem and it’s not coming from within its borders. For decades, the state’s seen its residents take their gaming revenue just miles across borders into neighboring Oklahoma and Louisiana– both of which offer legal casinos. Louisiana recently launched sports betting, reaping the benefits of being near the United State’s fourth-largest city, Houston. When will Texas see legal sports betting?
Recent updates have changed the outlook on sports betting in the Lone Star state.
When will Texas get legal sports betting?
The short answer is: We don’t know yet. However, the winds of change are blowing in the plains and some of the previously-established stances against gaming and sports betting are being softened.
Back in 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott took a very firm stance against gambling and casinos, closing the door on the matter for six years. Since 2003, Texans headed up I-35 just one mile into Oklahoma– where casinos are legal– to Winstar Casino. This is hardly a chore for those living in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex since this casino is just 45 minutes away. For those in Houston, it’s two hours to Lake Charles, La., home to multiple casinos.
According to a 2019 estimate published in the Dallas Morning News, over $2.5 billion is spent annually by Texans at out-of-state casinos.
However, when it comes to sports betting, Texans are stuck. Last year, Louisiana legal sports betting launched on a parish-by-parish basis, but Oklahoma has yet to kick the tires on the matter.
In February 2021, Gov. Abbott vocalized a softer stance against gaming, saying he, “want[s] to have the opportunity to visit with the members [of the Texas Lottery], get a feel for where they are, and importantly, they’ll have extremely good input from their constituents.”
Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke includes support for sports gaming during his 2022 campaign that will culminate in a Nov. 8 election. According to a poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that 57% of Texans support gaming, something that could factor into this year’s gubernatorial election.
A Texas-sized hurdle
Despite Gov. Abbott indicating that he’s open to changing his mind on sports gaming, the Republican Party of Texas is still openly against the idea. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a February 2021 radio interview that Texas is “nowhere close to having the votes for [legalizing sports betting]… We don’t even have a bill that has been filed in the Senate on the issue.”
Patrick and the rest of the GOP killed the issue in 2021, making it impossible for a bill to be introduced until at least 2023.
Professional sports teams in Texas make a push
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Mavericks, Cowboys, and Texas Rangers made a push to send legalizing sports betting to voters. That was struck down in a committee in April 2021. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones vocalized his support for sports betting to come to Texas three months after the team joined the coalition.
However, in May 2022, the Houston Astros announced a betting partnership with BetMGM– the first of its kind in Texas. Since sports betting is not yet legal in the state, part of the deal is to offer special promotions to residents of Louisiana who are firmly under the umbrella of the Astros.
Texas is the second-most populous state in the United States and would offer an enormous boost to the legal betting market.