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What Happened with the Texas Casino Bill?

The burgeoning iGaming market represents huge business in the US, with this sector worth an estimated $59.6 billion in 2020.

What’s more, the revenue forecast for 2027 is $127.3 billion, with this increasing incrementally as more states move to legalise online casino gameplay and (more commonly) remote sports betting.

However, one state that’s unlikely to join this charge is Texas, which remains fundamentally opposed to online gambling and recently saw a casino bill defeated without making the floor of either legislative chamber.

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You can learn more about the current offline casino locations in Texas at Casinos.us. But what exactly happened with the recent bill, and will online gambling ever be legalised in the state of Texas?

How Did the Proposed Legislation Fare in Texas?

 It was the Las Vegas Sands resort that made the latest attempt to bring iGaming to Texas residents, putting forward both detailed casino legislation and a previous bill to legalise sports betting.

The gaming empire, which was launched by the late Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, also worked tirelessly to achieve its objectives, hiring an army of lobbyists and investing millions in television ads.

This time and financial commitment is certainly to be lauded, especially as it followed an election season in which Adelson played a key role in attempting to overturn Joe Biden’s comprehensive win (this seems particularly pertinent, especially with first lady Jill Biden scheduled to visit Texas in the coming days).

Despite these sustained and high profile efforts, however, the Sands group was unsuccessful in its attempts to legalise iGaming in Texas, with a crucial deadline coming and going before the House Committees had advanced the legislation to the chamber.

This meant that the Committee also missed the deadline to vote out the House Joint Resolution 133, which would have also afforded the Texas electorate to decide whether to build destination resorts with casinos in the state’s four largest metropolitan areas.

In this respect, the resolution fared even worse than a previous attempt to legalise sports betting.

This at least got a hearing before the State Affairs Committee in April, but the failure to take subsequent actions means that it’s also doomed to fail in the near-term.

Officially, the legislative session ended on May 31st, with this condemning the attempts to legalise online gambling and sports betting futile for the time being.

Gambling in Texas – A Brief History

Undoubtedly, the legislation would have brought a monumental expansion to the gambling scene in Texas, which currently has one of the most restrictive set of laws nationwide.

It was always an ambitious project, however, especially when you consider the scant history of gambling in Texas and the state’s reluctance to permit and regulate virtually any type of betting vertical.

In fact, the only legal forms of betting in Texas are the state lottery, parimutuel wagering on horse and greyhound races, charitable bingo, raffles and Indian casino locations.

Texas first legalised parimutuel betting in 1933, as a way of raising revenue during the Great Depression. Despite four major tracks opening in the state, betting was once again banned in 1937, and various attempts to reverse this decision were unsuccessful over the next 50 years.

In 1987, however, Texan voters finally approved a referendum legalising parimutuel wagering once again, with the Texas Racing Commission convened to oversee this.

Also during the 1980s, the establishment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) established the rights of tribes to operate any kind of gambling elsewhere in the state.

Each of Texas’s free federally recognised tribes subsequently opened a casino. The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas has the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, for example, while the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe launched Naskila Gaming in Livingston.

The Tigua tribe also opened the Speaking Rock Entertainment Centre in El Paso, but this was ultimately forced to close in 2002 amid ongoing legal disputes concerning the legality of casino-style gaming in the state.

This leaves just two Indian casinos within the state’s boundaries, with these established as the only offline gambling hubs of any description in Texas.

Will Online Gambling Ever be Legal in Texas?

 While the prospect of iGaming being legalised in Texas seems further away than ever before, Las Vegas Sands’ Senior Vice President Andy Abboud has reiterated the group’s desire to ultimately achieve this objective.

“We have said from the beginning that we’re committed to Texas for the long-haul”, he said in a statement to The Texas Tribune shortly after the latest bill failed to reach the senate. “We have made great strides this session and have enjoyed meeting with lawmakers about our vision for destination resorts and answering all the questions they have.”

Abboud also said that the feedback pertaining to the bill had been overwhelmingly positive, creating a slither of hope that a revised bill will return at some point in the near-term.

For now, however, gambling enthusiasts in Texas will have to bide their time, while hoping that the demand for iGaming markets becomes too lucrative for lawmakers to ignore.

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