Texas House Approves Online Sports Betting Bill

The sports betting proposal is backed by a coalition of professional sports teams and betting platforms in Texas.

Austin, Texas — This article was originally published in the Texas Tribune.

In dramatic fashion, the Texas House of Representatives finalized Thursday a bill that would let voters decide whether to legalize online sports betting statewide.

It took 100 votes to pass this proposal, and that’s exactly what happened when the roster was first called. Subsequent verification of the votes took several minutes for the clerk to check all members, yielding 101 votes in favor of House Joint Resolution 102.

This is one of two proposals to expand gambling that have been making headlines in the House over the past two days. Another more ambitious bill, House Joint Resolution 155, would let voters decide whether to legalize casinos in Texas. Final consideration of the proposal has been postponed until Thursday at 10 p.m.

Either way, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has repeatedly said there isn’t enough support, and both plans will have a long winning streak in the Senate. And Friday is the deadline for the House to finalize the bill, meaning the casino bill is running out of time.

The House initially approved both proposals on Wednesday, but neither received the two-thirds majority needed to get the Texas constitutional amendment through the floor. That left them in an uncertain position heading into Thursday.

Rep. Jeff Leach (R, Plano), the author of the sports betting bill, gave a strong closing address on the floor of the House Thursday, reaffirming his allegations that many Texans are already illegally betting on sports. repeated.

“They are all criminals under Texas law and I believe this bill should be passed to bring them out of the shadows and regulate them carefully and safely,” Leach said. rice field.

The sports betting bill managed to clear the threshold of 100 votes after several lawmakers changed their votes on Thursday. At least five people voted for HJR 102 on Thursday after voting against it the day before.

The House passed the casino bill the day before, 92-51, followed by the sports betting bill 97-44. Both resolutions require a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and voter approval to amend the state constitution.

The vote in the House of Representatives is the biggest advance the game advocates have made since they landed in Austin two years ago with a full-scale lobbying campaign. Casino empire Las Vegas Sands is particularly prolific, spending millions on lobbyists, TV ads and campaign donations.

The gambling expansion proposal didn’t make it to a House committee hearing in 2021, and the Senate didn’t even hold a hearing.

The sports betting proposal is backed by a coalition of professional sports teams and betting platforms in Texas.

Opposition to the proposal came from many angles. The most vocal critic was Rep. Matt Shaheen (R, Plano), who has fought the latest moves to expand gambling from the start. He warned that sex trafficking and domestic violence cases would “surge” if Texas legalized casinos.

“This bill is going nowhere,” Mr Shaheen said Wednesday. “The Senate hasn’t even gone to hearings on this one. This is dead.”

Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher of San Antonio, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, also opposed both plans, arguing that the process was hasty.

“I’m not ‘no’. I’m ‘no’ now,” Martinez Fischer said Wednesday. “Take your time and heal yourself.”

Democratic Rep. Yvonne Davis of Dallas, a co-author of the casino bill, said Wednesday that the bill is “probably not perfect at this point, but like we’re drafting it every day, it’s going to make us feel better.” continues to be perfect,” he said.

Big reaction to the casino proposal

The casino bill was the most controversial on Wednesday. The move would create at least eight casino gaming licenses in “destination resorts” across Texas, prioritizing metropolitan areas where horse racing is already licensed. Sports betting will also be legalized.

Rep. Charlie Jellen, who drafted the proposal, said the bill would lead to “world-class casinos” with shopping and entertainment. He also stressed that it will only happen if voters approve it.

“It’s really about letting the voters decide,” Jellen of Fort Worth Republican told colleagues.

Mr. Gelen amended the bill to use 80% of the new tax revenue from the casinos to increase public school teachers’ salaries and pay for retired teachers’ living expenses. He also accepted several amendments to address geographic concerns, including those that would qualify the Austin area for casino licenses.

Still, Gelen encountered opposition on several different fronts. Rep. Eddie Morales Jr. (D-Eagle Pass) has called for a change in the law to give casino licenses to the Kickapoos, a traditional tribe of Texas. The tribe warned that Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass could be hit hard by the creation of a license in the San Antonio area, where many of its customers live.

Morales’ amendment fell victim to an ordering, or procedural challenge, by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R, Arlington). And Morales ultimately voted against the entire proposal, saying it would “destroy my constituency.”

In the attack on Sands, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) called for an amendment to the bill to exclude casino operators operating in China and three other countries. Sands owns properties in Macau, a special administrative region of China, and Mr. Schaefer said he was concerned the company had an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” with the Communist government.

Mr. Gelen addressed the amendment by persuading the House to apply the exemption only to “mainland China.”

Online gambling is ‘not an extension of gambling’

The debate over the sports betting bill went smoothly. Author Leach argued that this was “not an expansion of gambling” but merely an effort to regulate illegal online sports betting already taking place across Texas.

He accepted an amendment to the basic bill to include the National Lacrosse League in the proposal and raise the gaming tax from 10% to 15%.

Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburgh) fully supported the bill, saying it was meant to give Texans “freedom” in how they spend their money.

“We are not going to build casinos under this bill,” Canales said. He “allows people to play the game of chance”, including trading stocks online. “What is the difference?”

Shaheen remains vocally opposed, saying online sports betting is “worse” than casinos because it can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Most of those who supported the sports betting proposal but opposed the casino bill were Republicans.

The Senate expects a big success

Mr Patrick’s callousness to the rise of gambling has greatly overshadowed the debate in the House. Patrick has not outlined any substantive opposition to his proposal, but he has repeatedly downplayed the prospects of his proposal on the floor.

In the Senate, Republican Senator Royce Corkhorst (Blenheim) has introduced a sports betting proposal in this Congress. He has not yet received a committee hearing.

Patrick noted that pro-casinos didn’t even introduce a bill to the Senate this Congress, adding that Korghorst’s sports betting bill has the support of only a handful of other senators.

Patrick said in late March that “not a single senator has come to me saying they want to vote in favor” other than those who have already signed.

Gaming advocates have long viewed House Speaker Dade Phelan as the state leader best suited to expanding gambling. The Beaumont Republican, who represents a district bordering Louisiana where casinos are legal, said he would have no problem attracting facilities to Texas after 2021.

Governor Greg Abbott, who resisted gambling a few years ago, is also open to expanding gambling. His office said it was open to exploring “highly professional entertainment options” for destination resorts promoted by the Sands team.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, bipartisan news media that informs and engages Texans about Texas politics and policy.Learn more about texatribune.org.

https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/texas/texas-house-approves-online-sports-betting-measure/287-64c611ea-1761-4e5b-a046-0e4f3ead4d6f Texas House Approves Online Sports Betting Bill

Exit mobile version