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Texas House Bill Would Legalize Sports Betting

- Likely to Meet Same Fate as Previous Gambling Bills

When the Supreme Court of the United States last May overturned a federal law banning sports betting in all states except Nevada, broadcasters and every other ad supported industry began investigating the potentially lucrative market for payoffs in their states. However, the Texas Legislature’s historic opposition to sanctioning any form of gambling outside the state lottery, charitable bingo and limited pari-mutuel betting on horse races will likely prove insurmountable for betting interests here.

For example, consider the fact that Republicans control all three branches of state government and the state Republican Party’s 2018 platform expressly opposes the expansion of legalized gambling.

Since the court ruled, 11 states have now legalized sports betting and, according to the American Sports Betting Coalition, another 15 have pending legislation to do so. The latter group includes Texas where a South Texas lawmaker wants to legalize the practice and subject it to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. The revenue would be used to support public schools.

But neither national trends nor even the prospect of new revenue to fund schools or other core state services – or as the Texas Association of Business would have it, to fund a further reduction in the state’s franchise tax on business – is expected to persuade state lawmakers to legalize sports betting.

A few years ago legislators summarily dismissed a well-funded plan advanced by powerhouse lobbyists to legalize a handful of gambling casinos in several locations in the state, with some opponents saying that the state didn’t need any more revenue.

No doubt, a lot of public policy groups would question that assessment, but the political reality remains that legislation and a constitutional amendment authorizing and regulating sports betting proposed by Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, are longshots at best. 

Like the doomed casino gambling proposal before it, Lucio’s HB 1275 and HJR 61 would allow only a handful of permits to be issued for sports betting operations in Texas.  It would retain the ban on betting on Texas college sports or youth sports.

The betting coalition claims that regulated sports betting could boost the state’s economy by about $1.7 billion annually and create more than 9,300 jobs.

Will that mean anything to lawmakers deciding how to spend an additional $9 billion in revenue in a state with historically low unemployment? While history hints, time will tell.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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