Texas’ Gambling Expansion Bill Won’t Make It This Session

Texas Gambling Expansion

  • HB 2070 would have legalized sports betting, set a license framework
  • 87th Session of the Texas Legislature concludes at end of May
  • “No time”, says Rep. John Kuemple (R)

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HB 2070 was looking like it would legalize sports betting in one of the largest markets in the country, with revenue take expected to rival that of New Jersey (currently the biggest sports betting market in the country). Numerous attempts were made by sponsoring state Rep. Dan Huberty to get the bill on the docket, which would have gone to a vote in November had it made it through the legislature– but things aren’t looking promising for HB 2070.

Lone Star State Would Bring In Record-Breaking Betting Revenue

The two main proponents of sports betting in Texas have each sponsored a sports betting bill that was hopeful to pass through the Legislature and be drafted into a bipartisan text with support on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Dan Huberty (R) and Senator Juan Hinojosa (D) each drafted and sponsored a sports betting framework in the form of HB 2070 and SB 736, respectively.

The latter senate bill, SB 736, was referred to the committee but didn’t make it out of the death grip of Business & Commerce. Rep. Huberty is a sponsor of HB 2070 and a driving force behind the popular HB 3, a school and finance bill that is slated to direct millions in funds to Texas education. In an attempt to prop up HB 3 with even more revenue, HB 2070 was drafted with the intent of directing tax revenue from sports betting directly to schools.

At the high end, independent lobby groups like Texas’ Sports Betting Alliance have determined that nearly $6 billion is wagered on illegal, offshore platforms, making Texas the second-largest sports betting market behind NJ should the practice be legalized. HB 2070 would have allowed tribal operators and professional sports teams to apply for a mobile license at a fair cost of $500,000.

Despite the support from local sports teams, gambling operators, and the Texas public, sports betting is not likely to be on the ballot this November.

Constitution, Schedule of TX Makes Betting Law Tricky

One quirk about the Texas constitution: it bans nearly all forms of gambling. The text of the TX constitution specifically bans:

  • All “bets of partial or final results of a contest”,
  • Bets on “the performance of a participant in a contest”,
  • “Bets for money or any other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls”

Because the text of the constitution itself bars sports betting, Texans will have to vote on a constitutional amendment after two-thirds of lawmakers agree to move forward with a betting framework.

That last thing, getting two-thirds of legislators to agree, is a difficult task in any state but near impossible in historically conservative Texas. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has publicly stated his opposition to legalized sports betting, and many legislators echo his position.

Support for TX Sports Betting is Present, But Time Ran Out

More than anything else, these sports betting frameworks just didn’t have the momentum to make it to a ballot in November 2021. This timing issue was noted by Rep. John Kuemple (R), who stated matter of factly that “there’s no time for (HB 2070) to pass this session”.

That sentiment is shared by several lawmakers in Texas, but there remains optimism that sports betting could be put on the books by the time the Texas legislature meets again. However, another quirk of the Texas legislative system is that lawmakers only meet in odd-numbered years, so we’re gonna have to wait until 2023 before we see another push for legal bets in the Lone Star State.

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Chris Altman

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor.   Email: [email protected]