With two gambling bills alive in the Texas legislature, one for casino gambling (HB 2843) and one for online sports betting (HB 1942), people close to the issue are speaking out on the likelihood of either passing, and so far, it seems low.
The Texas legislative session ends on May 29, meaning lawmakers have until then to either pass or nix the casino and sports betting bills.
Politics Are A Big Hurdle
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick revealed last week that hope may be dim to get anything passed in the Senate right now. He actually said that the Senate has had “zero support” of gambling since before the legislative session even started.
On March 28, Patrick was a guest on The Mark Davis Show, where he said “our members have been clear: they’re not in support today. We don’t have any votes in the Senate.”
If the bill did get the necessary support in the Senate, Patrick said there would be an additional stipulation. “Unless I have 15 to 16 Republicans, meaning it’s a Republican-driven bill because we’re a Republican-driven state, I’m not bringing a bill to the floor,” he said.
There are 31 member of the Texas Senate and currently 12 of them are Democrats. Patrick said that if all 12 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and only nine Republicans made up the additional necessary votes to reach the two-thirds threshold (21 votes), the bill would still fail to pass on his account.
“I’m not letting the Democrats run the Senate,” said Patrick.
Sports Betting Bill Needs To Be “Clear And Concise”
At the 2023 Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention last week, Brendan Bussmann, managing partner of a gaming consultant firm, B Global, offered his thoughts as well.
“Sports betting appears to have a long way to go when the primary sponsor in the House says that the license fees and tax rates are still open for discussion,” Bussmann said. “The only way that sports betting gets done is with a clear and concise message on why low tax and license fees matter, the consumer protections in place, and the ability to operate in a fair market.”
This is a reference to Rep. Jeff Leach, sponsor of the online sports betting bill, who said that the tax rate (10%) and licensing fee ($500,000) outlined in his bill are both negotiable.
Bussmann added that the legislature would be “hard pressed” to get anything passed this year.
Texas Is Flush With Cash
“It won’t pass this session because there’s not a budget deficit,” said Brant Martin, partner at Texas-based law firm Wick Phillips.
Typically, in vouching for gambling in any given state, a large selling point is the revenue it can bring to a state, specifically if the revenue would fund underserved programs or initiatives. But in Texas’ case, they have a budget surplus, meaning cash flow is not a compelling reason to bring sports betting or any type of gambling to the state.
If there were ever a time that having too much cash is an issue, it’s this one.