Featured in this article:
  • Texas professional franchises want legal sports gambling.
  • The state could use gambling revenue to fill budget holes.
  • A constitutional amendment will be needed to expand gambling.

Breaking news on Monday revived hope that a sleeping giant was warming to legal sports gambling – Texas. The state is a long-time adversary of expanded gambling opportunities for its citizens. But Texans love their sports, and now some of the state’s biggest teams are throwing their weight behind legalized Texas sports betting.

Texas Teams Form the Sports Betting Alliance

Three Texas professional sports franchises have joined together to push the state towards legal wagering. The Dallas Morning News reported that the Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers – all based in the Dallas MetroPlex – created the Sports Betting Alliance. A statewide coalition of professional franchises, the Sports Betting Alliance anticipates adding more members soon. With their rabid fan-bases and firebrand owners the Alliance may have the juice to change politicians’ minds regarding legal wagering. In particular, the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones and the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban are not used to being turned down.

Though opposition to looser gaming laws continues to crumble across the United States, legal sports wagering still eludes residents of the largest states. While citizens and legislators have tried in the past to get gambling off the ground in the Lone Star State, current governor Greg Abbott is a noted opponent of expanded access to gaming. Politically, ruby-red Texas has defied its western frontier past by fighting to prevent or limit even small tribal casino operations within its borders.

Pandemic Side-Effects To Help Texas Bettors?

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has created budgetary chaos for governments around the world. Texas is no different. With a constitutional requirement to balance its budget, every dollar of lost revenue equates to a dollar of less government spending. The Sports Betting Alliance is capitalizing on the need for untapped revenue streams by pointing out how much money Texas is losing. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban specifically stated “it makes no sense for us to force Texans to go to neighboring states to gamble….” 

“It makes no sense for us to force Texans to go to neighboring states to gamble…”

Legalized sports betting could be a huge new money-maker for Texas. There’s no doubt its citizens are currently using underground and offshore bookmakers every fall Saturday and Sunday. With two NFL teams, two MLB squads, three NBA franchises, an NHL team, and soon three MLS clubs, Texas is a hub of professional sports.

A regulated sports gambling market could count on year-round interest and wagers. Similarly, the Alliance’s member-franchises would be able to drum-up more interest for even ‘meaningless’ games.

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What’s Next for Texas Gamblers?

The lobbying power of the Sports Betting Alliance and its representative owners will be difficult for Texas’ political establishment to ignore. In 2020, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation lobbied strenuously for Texas to expand its gambling options. Former Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson, prior to his passing in early 2021, targeted Texas. Because it is one of the largest markets remaining, Texas may be lucrative for established casinos. As a heavyweight in Republican politics, Adelson was well-positioned to cajole and coax GOP state legislators into supporting his plans. With his death, it is now unclear how Sands Corporation’s strategy will unfold.

The Sports Betting Alliance is not taking a position on whether sports betting should be part of more comprehensive gaming reform. Because of the laws on the books, the earliest legal wagers in Texas won’t likely be placed until 2022. The first step towards any gambling progress will be an amendment to the state constitution. Recent gambling referendums have proved popular across the country, in both red and blue states. 

After Texas voters hopefully pass the referendum, the state legislature would need to agree on implementation rules. Opposition to legal wagering and opinions on the scope of licensing and regulation could make this stage of expansion precarious.

At this point, the Alliance could team up with established gaming interests like Sands Corporation to lobby for wide-ranging reforms. The Alliance may try and use sports betting as the sugar to make the medicine of expanded gambling go down easier for Texans.

There will be numerous twists and turns as Texas and other states jockey to join the online gambling revolution.

Brad Vanderhide

Brad Vanderhide is an avid blackjack player and sports bettor whose only rule is to never wager on or against his beloved Cleveland Browns. With a background in politics, law, and government compliance, his writing provides a high-level overview of the changing online gambling landscape. As a native Ohioan, Brad cannot wait for his state to get out of its own way and open up legalized sport betting and online casino gaming.

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