Texas Gambling Legislation Passes First House Vote

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Texas lawmakers passed two gambling proposals on Monday that aim to see legal casino and sports betting introduced into the Lone Star State.

Both pieces of legislation passed this first House committee vote, 9-3 in favor. Although it remains an outside bet to succeed once it hits the Senate floor, Bills 2843 and 1942 represent the first step towards Texas legalization.

Full passing of any law is unlikely, as such a step would require a change to the constitution of Texas – which would then need a full two-thirds majority in the state Senate and the House of Representatives.

With Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) currently solid in his anti-gambling stance, any move for legal betting in Texas has a long way to go. Patrick’s influence in the state is considered key to any change.

Texan Sands

Among those celebrating this first victory will be giant national casino operator Las Vegas Sands. Legendary CEO and owner Sheldon Adelson, who died in 2021, long campaigned for a legal market in Texas.

His company continues to put millions of dollars into lobbying campaigns in the state, including TV ads, campaign contributions, and more.

“The efforts to bring destination resorts to Texas made significant progress with today’s vote,” said Sands spokesperson Matt Hirsch to the Texas Tribune. “Texans have made it clear that they want destination resorts in Texas, and we are now one step closer to ultimately allowing them to decide on this issue.”

Debates and Revisions

The version of the bill that passed Monday was amended from one discussed just last month in the state Senate.

Both sides’ arguments were centered on well-trodden battle lines during that debate. Those in favor cited the economic benefits of employment and tourism, and those against brought up the specter of problem gambling and its potential harms.

The amendments made since then have yet to be made public, and the new bills were both passed without open discussion of their contents.

This suggests some compromise, although three Republican committee members still voted against the bills.

What we do know is that House Bill 2843 aims to create a ‘Texas Gaming Commission’ for the “authorization, licensing and regulation of casino gaming and sports wagering in this state.”

Any such laws would be put to a public vote after passing the Senate and House chambers, without mentioning the hurdle of constitutional change.

Texan gamblers shouldn’t get too excited yet, as legalization could be a long way off, If it happens at all.

But the winds of change are steady blowing across the nation. As evidenced just last week in Kentucky, where a new gambling law passed that will allow legal sports betting to start in the state later this year. This saw Kentucky become the 37th US state to legalize gambling in some form or another since 2018.

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