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Texans Want Access to Sports Betting - What's the Hold Up?

November 3, 2023

Of the states that have not yet legalized sports betting, three states in particular have mobile sports betting operators salivating. That would be the states of California, Florida, and Texas.

In Florida and California, the biggest obstacle to legalizing sports betting is negotiations with each state's Indian Tribes. In both states, Tribal leaders have a stranglehold on most forms of gambling according to the language prescribed in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Said Tribes aren't likely to embrace sports betting without significant concessions that benefit the Tribes.

In Florida, the sports betting issue is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court for resolution. If the court sides with allowing the new compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state via Governor Ron Desantis, it's possible sports betting will be available in Florida by the middle of next year. In California, everything to date is "dead on arrival."

That leaves Texas where things get complicated. The voters definitely want access to legalized sports betting. However, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and a call for morality stand in the way.

What Texans Want

There is no denying that Texas fully supports sports at both the collegiate and professional levels. The state's population enthusiastically supports college teams like the Texas Longhorns, Houston Cougars, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, and more. At the professional level, the state boasts professional teams like the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers (MLB), San Antonia Spurs and Dallas Mavericks (NBA), Houston Texas and Dallas Cowboys, and three (3) MLS soccer teams.

It's the enthusiastic fan bases of these teams that want access to sports betting. They fully support such legislation but nothing of any significance has made it to the floor of Congress. Even with the Texas Sports Betting Alliance (TSBA) leading the fight for bettors, the obstacles are big.

The TSBA has geo-tracking data that shows Texans have made hundreds of thousands of attempts to place mobile bets with bookmakers in other states where such activities are legal. The demand is there. The access is not.

Patrick's Battle Against Sport Betting

For years, Lt. Governor Patrick has made it clear he would not support gambling expansion in Texas. While the TSBA has made its case, the Texas legislature can't find enough support to pull everything together.

The underlying problem might be that legislators are trying to secure gambling expansion that includes both retail casino gambling and sports betting. That's certainly where Patrick is drawing the line. Texas is a Baptist community, and religious concerns are simply in opposition to casino gambling on games of chance.

It's become clear that the only way Texans will likely ever get a chance to legally bet on sports is if enough legislators would be willing to propose and support sports betting-only legislation. Unfortunately, casino gambling lobbyists are holding politicians' feet to the fire. They don't want separate sports betting legislation due to fears they would lose the leverage that sports betting brings to the table.

With the 2024 election about a year away, it's anybody's guess what will happen.


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