Bill Would Put Texas Sports Teams in Betting Business

Sports teams in Texas will be able to go into the sports betting business if H.B. 2070 is passed. But first, the legislature must ask voters for the OK to amend the constitution.

Texas Rep. Dan Huberty has filed a bill in the state legislature that would allow sports teams in the state to become licensed sports betting operators. The three racetracks in Texas could also offer sportsbooks. The legislation would require amending the state constitution with a referendum on the November ballot.

The bill would tax gross wagering revenue at 10 percent.

Texas has 13 professional sports teams spread out among Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

Opposing the bill is Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who told a radio talk show host February 9, “I’ve never been in favor of it. We are nowhere close to having the votes for it … I don’t spend much time on it because the members are just against it.”

A rival bill was filed by Rep. Harold Dutton, whose district includes Houston, home of five pro sports teams. A third bill, from Rep. Joe Deshotel, would legalize Class III gaming and also has a provision for sportsbooks.

Huberty’s bill would allow sports teams to make deals with leagues to share sports betting revenues.

The Dallas Cowboys issued a statement supporting H.B. 2070, with Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones, declaring, “Unregulated and illegal sports gambling is already taking place in the state of Texas. Legalized sports betting would regulate the industry and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for the state which will help fund critical programs without raising taxes.”

Dutton and Huberty differ in how they approach the number of licenses—Dutton would only authorize five, and Huberty would allow many times that. Dutton would tax at 6.25 percent and Huberty at 10 percent. Huberty’s bill would allow betting on college teams, and Dutton’s does not.

These bills have tended to overshadow the efforts by Las Vegas Sands lobbyist to promote a bill that would allow five casinos in the state. Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government affairs for Las Vegas Sands, is promoting Dallas-Fort Worth as the top site.

According to several Texas pundits, LVS doesn’t have much of a chance. Mark P. Jones, political science professor at Rice University’s Baker Institute said Abboud is “spitting in the wind.” He added, “Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has been very clear that casino gambling legislation will not see the light of day in 2021.”