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Texas Edges Closer to Sports Betting Debut Following House ApprovalThe Lone Star State’s House has taken a significant stride towards the welcoming of regulated sports betting for its residents. While House approval is a huge step, there’s still a massive challenge waiting in the notably anti-gambling expansion Senate.
In a dramatic vote that involved a lot of compromises and lobbying, the Texas House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would allow for a constitutional amendment on sports betting within state lines. The bill required 100 votes to sail through and it surpassed that threshold by just one vote with a final tally of 101 – 42. The passage of this bill in the House has elicited a lot of excitement that sports betting could finally become a reality in the Lone Star State.
Although that may be an overreaction of sorts, the passage of the bill in the House has been received quite well by sports betting enthusiasts in the state. Speaking on the win in the House, Sports Betting Alliance president Jeremy Kudon said:Quote
“This is a huge day for Texas sports fans. For the first time ever, the Texas House considered and passed a bill to legalize sports betting. This vote leaves no room for doubt- legalizing sports betting is popular in the lone star state. Texans want and deserve the freedom to safely and legally bet on their favorite teams, and they are one chamber away from getting it.”
How It All Went Down
The House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 102 which would give the Texan voters the chance to join other 22 states in approving sports betting. This proposal is one of the two proposals to expand gambling, with the other proposal dubbed House Resolution 155. Should the latter be okayed as well, it is thought to be more ambitious, and not only would it legalize mobile sports betting, but it also seeks to legalize casinos in Texas.
For now, the second proposal’s fate still hangs in the balance as its sponsors face the challenge of raising 100 votes just like the House Joint Resolution 102. Of course, the task will definitely be a lot tougher to accomplish considering the additional issues set to be addressed.
Mind you, the House had initially approved the two proposals, but neither received the two-thirds majority of 100 votes needed to make it out of the House chamber. This shortfall even led to fears that neither of the proposals could marshal the required numbers and that the Texan sports betting dream would go up in smoke.
In a bid to ramp up support for House Joint Resolution 102, its author, Rep Jeff Leach, (R-Plano) gave a spirited speech on the House floor. Rep Leach argued that millions of Texans are already betting on sports albeit by making use of illegal channels, so why not create legal avenues for them to do so? He said:Quote
“Every single one of them are criminals under Texas law and I believe that we should pass this bill to let them come out of the shadows and to safely and carefully regulate this.”
A day before hitting the 100 magic number for the sports betting proposal, the House had passed the casino proposal on a 92-44 vote while the sports betting measure received a 97-44 vote. Seeing as these two options didn’t hit the two-thirds target they did not proceed to the Senate.
The progress made this time is the most made by a sports betting bill since two years ago when there was an all-out lobbying bid to introduce sports betting in the Lone Star State. And even though the intense lobbying cost large casino operators millions of dollars, the bill faltered and crawled to death during the House Committee hearings in 2021.
Mixed Reactions to the Gambling Expansion Bill
As expected, the sports betting proposal has won approval from the state’s professional sports teams and the betting platforms serving other states in the country. But as has always been the case in gambling matters, there is an apparent opposition to the bills right from the House.
The most vocal opposer of the bill in the House came in the form of Rep Mat Shaheen (R-Plano), who surprisingly has been for the expansion of gambling. According to him, the legalization of Texas casinos could see a surge in crimes such as domestic violence and sex trafficking. Moreover, the way he sees it, the bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate – but that remains to be seen.
Another opposer of the gambling expansion bill is Rep Trey Martinez Fischer (San Antonio), the head of the House Democratic Caucus, who figures that the bill is coming too soon. He insisted that the House Joint Resolution 102 be put off for a later date when the Representatives have aligned on many pertinent issues.
A Sterner Test Awaits in the Senate
The sports betting bill is headed to the Senate where a more hostile reception awaits. With the chamber divided into 19 seats for the Republicans and 12 for the Democrats, the bill will need at least 20 votes cumulatively to hit the two-thirds target. That could be a tall order as it is well-known that there is significant opposition to the bill in the Senate.
There are also opinions that the bill will not even get past the Committee stage in the Senate. The strongest opposition to this bill is in the form of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who has so far committed to ensuring its death should it pass the Committee stage.
That said, this is the closest the state has come, and there is a platform to build on from past failures. Here’s to hoping the bill eventually pulls through against all odds so that Texans can finally relish regulated sports betting as many other US states do.
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