AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — As legislators prepare for the next legislative session to begin in less than two weeks, Texas gamblers and special interest groups hope this is the year for legalized sports betting.
“There’s real buzz for the 2023 legislative session, that something could get done in Texas thing year,” regulatory reporter Robert Linnehan said. “There is a long way to go. You’re not going to be able to bet on March Madness or anything like that. But in 2024, you could see sports betting in Texas.”
State Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) has already pre-filed legislation that would not only legalize sports wagers, but pave the way for Texas to become a gambling destination.
SJR 17 would establish the Texas Gaming Commission and allow a limited number of “destination resorts” to conduct casino gaming. It faces an uphill climb in the legislature.
“I haven’t had anyone mention it to me, that they are interested in doing anything,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told KXAN regarding the Senate’s appetite for new gambling laws. “A lot of talk out there, but I don’t see any movement on it.”
Gambling legalization would require amending the Texas Constitution — a process that is far more common than at the federal level but will nonetheless create substantial hurdles for any legislation touching the topic. Constitutional amendments require approval from two-thirds of the House and Senate, and then approval from a majority of Texas voters.
That’s not stopping some high-dollar interests from trying, though.
Former Gov. Rick Perry has thrown his voice behind the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, joining many professional sports franchises in trying to bolster the state’s wagering options.
“Texans are already participating in mobile sports betting. Legalization would be a home run for all involved,” he said. “Neighboring states are cashing in on Texans’ bets.”
Current legislators, however, are still skeptical.
“I haven’t seen any bills filed on it,” Patrick said, despite Democrat Alvarado’s pre-filed bill, by Republicans.