Proponents of a 2021 Texas gambling expansion admitted it is unlikely to pass this legislative session. State Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) remains optimistic Texas will add casinos and sportsbooks in the future. She stated that “we’ve known all along this is a long-term attempt.” However, the long-awaited Texas gambling expansion is unlikely to come to fruition in 2021.

What Was Planned for 2021 Texas Gambling Expansion?

Senator Alvarado partnered with State Representative John Kuempel (R-Seguin) in introducing bipartisan gambling bills. There were two main points of emphasis the sponsors hoped to reform.

First, the bills allowed four mega-resort casino locations, one in each of the state’s four largest cities. Under the proposal, a casino would be built in the Dallas Metroplex, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Right now, each metropolitan area lacks major gambling infrastructure besides struggling parimutuel racetracks.

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Vegas-style casinos are still on hold in Texas.

The second plank of the bills regulated sportsbooks throughout Texas. Additionally, online and mobile wagering were part of the failed Texas gambling expansion. Both bills authorized a constitutional amendment allowing Lone Star state voters to weigh in on their state’s gambling laws.

Why Did 2021 Gambling Bills Fail?

Though the 2021 Texas legislative session runs through the end of May, Monday held a deadline. All proposed bills needed to advance beyond their House legislative committee by then to remain active. The House version of the bills did not make the docket. This defeat means that without a special session there will be no 2021 Texas gambling expansion.

The two bills legalizing resort casinos and sportsbooks received support from numerous powerful interests. Las Vegas Sands poured millions into lobbying for land-based Texas casinos. The multinational gaming company views Texas as one of the largest untapped casino markets remaining. According to Sands lobbyists, Texas is losing “billions of tourism and gambling dollars.”

Additionally, Texas’ professional sports teams organized to support retail and online sportsbooks. Like the new Arizona sportsbook law, Texas teams hoped to receive special licenses for their venues.

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The Dallas Mavericks lobbied to bring a sportsbook to their arena.

But Texas lawmakers lacked the appetite to push through a complicated and comprehensive gambling expansion this session. The legislature received good news when the state’s budget deficit came in lower than anticipated. Previously, observers believed that state and local budgets were in the worst condition of the past “20-30 years.”

What’s Next for Texas Gambling Expansion?

The smaller than expected budget holes allowed gambling opponents, such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to shut down any momentum. Regulating sportsbooks and allowing casinos throughout Texas did not become a priority during the limited time lawmakers gathered.

However, other states have seen gambling reform on the drink of defeat, only to keep the ball rolling. But even with a strong lobbying push, chances of a special legislative for gambling are remote. There is simply too much opposition to gambling reform at the upper levels of state government.

Supporters of a Texas gambling expansion hope the continued march of regulated betting in the United States impacts politicians. Connected organizations like the Cowboys and Mavericks will continue to pressure elected officials. But it is small-time bettors hoping to make fewer trips across state lines who likely change Texas’ restrictive gambling laws. Thus, supporters like Sen. Alvarado remain hopeful.

Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller is a veteran casino writer with decades of experience under his belt. He's played at –and reviewed– countless of online casinos, and has written dozens of casino game guides. His strategy articles, and gambling news updates have been a fixture in the industry since 2004. A native of North Texas, Cliff is a long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fan. He enjoys sports and games of all sorts, including sports betting.

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