Texas: House committee to hear three sports betting, casino bills for the first time this week

Three bills that seek to legalize Texas sports betting will be heard, for the first time since being introduced, in the House of Representatives State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, March 22. Two of the bills seek to legalize “destination resorts,” casino gaming, and sports betting; while the third only seeks to allow online sports betting. Lawmakers will consider the bills and their proposals to place casinos and sports betting on the general election ballot in November 2023.  

Each proposal seeks a constitutional amendment for legalization, which would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both Texas legislative chambers and by state voters in the November general election. 

HJR 155 from Rep. Charlie Geren (R-99) and its enabling legislation HB 2843 from Rep. John Kuempel (R-44) seek to allow destination resorts in major metropolitan areas and legal sports betting, while attempting to revitalize the state’s horse racing and greyhound industry. The proposal calls for the creation of the Texas Gaming Commission to oversee legalized gaming.

Rep. Charlie Geren

Geren’s proposal says the state could have up to seven “destination resort” type casinos, which would offer other attractions such as hotels, restaurants, meeting spaces, entertainment venues, and shopping centers. This includes two in Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as two in the Houston areaOther casinos would be permitted in the San Antonio area, Corpus Christi, and McAllen area. 

The bill also calls for a percentage of casino gaming revenues to be used as horse racing purse money to promote its growth and sustainability in the state. The legislation imposes a 15% tax on gross casino gaming revenue, but it does not specify a sports betting tax.

Sen.Carol Alvarado 

Senator Carol Alvarado has also filed a bill to expand casino gambling through legislation that would also let voters decide on whether or not to legalize resort-style casino gambling and sports betting, but with different parameters from Geren’s proposal. 

The State Affairs Committee will also hear Rep. Jeff Leach’s (R-67) HB 1942 and HJR 102 legislation to legalize online sports betting through a constitutional amendment. The legislation is supported by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, which is comprised of Texas professional sports franchises, sports leagues, race tracks, and sports betting platforms.

Rep. Jeff Leach

The proposed laws would allow for the legalization of online sports betting through Texas professional sports teams. Each franchise would be able to apply for an online sports betting license and, if awarded one, can partner with up to one online sports betting operator.

If approved, WNBA, MLS, MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL franchises in the state will be eligible for online sports betting licenses. Additionally, professional golf tournaments held annually as part of a national tour will be eligible for betting, along with racetracks. Further, bets on college sports would also be permitted under the proposed bill. 

The law sets the online sports betting tax rate at 10% of adjusted gross sports betting revenue, and each license will cost $500,000. The Sports Betting Alliance estimates approximately $648.7 million in state taxes from sports betting within the first five years of the industry. This is based on the projected 10% tax rate on betting.

While the state does have a few tribal casinos, they only offer a limited selection of gaming options with no sports betting. There is optimism in the sports betting industry in Texas finally passing legislation as the push has support from lawmakers in both political parties. Additionally, major figures like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and former Governor Rick Perry have all endorsed bringing sportsbooks to Texas.