Texas Mulls Sports Betting

Texas Rep. Dan Huberty (l.) is working to persuade legislators on both side of the aisle to approve a vote on legal sports betting. Huberty says the state could tap into $5.6 billion in betting revenues.

Texas state Rep. Dan Huberty would like to legalize sports betting and use the tax proceeds to help fund special education. He has introduced HB 2070. He is optimistic of success. “I like my odds,” he said recently.

Huberty believes that there is about $5.6 billion in untapped sports betting activity in the state, either the black market variety, or the amount that Lone Star state residents spend on wagers in other jurisdictions that offer it.

With the second largest population, after California, Texas is the philosopher’s stone for sports betting enthusiasts because of how much potential revenue lurks.

The $5.6 billion number Huberty uses comes from the Sports Betting Alliance, a group of professional sports teams based in the state who have gone to bat, figuratively, for the idea. Tax that figure at 10 percent of gross, which the representative’s bill calls for, and you have a lot of money for education.

The effort is personal for Huberty, as he has a dyslexic son who could benefit from extra special education dollars.

Although Texas has a reputation for being a hard sell for gaming expansion, this year there are ten gaming bills already circulating.

Texas is also an even tougher sell for tax increases, which suits Huberty just fine. He told Sports Handle last week: “When we went through the process, and talked about we’re going to do this, finding long-term payment for this, we had to find revenue sources.” He added, “We don’t have an income tax. We don’t want to impact oil and gas — the question is how do I find sources of revenue untapped and available.”

Huberty was astounded when he found out how much was being wagered on illegal offshore sites.

Huberty needs to persuade fellow lawmakers to put his proposal on a House Joint Resolution to put it on the November ballot as an amendment to the state constitution. This will require a two-thirds majority of both Chambers.

Last month Huberty commented to GGB News: “There’s a tremendous amount of support and a lot of interest. We have the lottery and racing, we already have gambling in these areas. This would allow betting for people who don’t necessarily want to go to a casino. And there is 100 percent support from the sports teams. Every major sports team is behind it. Our view is simply to let the voters decide.”

The bill has bipartisan support and, of course from every professional sports team in the Lone Star State.

Unlike some competing bills, Huberty’s would allow wagers on the state’s dozens of colleges that offer high level sports, considered critical in raising the $5.6 billion annual handle. Huberty said, “(A) significant portion of wagering is on college sports. Based on data, up to 50%. That’s a big number when you consider the amount of wagering.”

One very significant opponent is Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who has opposed the idea from the start. In Texas the Lt. Governor has a significant influence on the fate of bills, where he is in charge of the Senate.

Huberty is also relying on the public, which has registered a strong support for expanded gaming and sports betting in several recent polls.