Two Texas gambling bills advance in the House of Representatives

April 5, 2023
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Proposals for legalizing casinos and sports betting in the Lone Star State must still receive a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

A committee in the Texas House of Representatives has advanced two main proposals to expand gambling. The House State Affairs Committee approved legislation giving voters the chance to decide whether to legalize casinos and online sports betting.

In the previous legislative session, the bills were heard, but were not voted out. Advocates for more legal gambling options in Texas include Las Vegas Sands, which has been targeting Texas for two consecutive sessions and spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaigns and ads since 2020.

Matt Hirsch, a spokesperson for Sands’ lobby effort, said, “Texans have made it clear they want destination resorts in Texas, and we are now one step closer to ultimately allowing them to decide on this issue.”

Committee votes were 9-3, with Republicans opposing. The bills still have more hurdles to clear, and if successful, potential changes to the Texas Constitution might be needed. A two-thirds majority is also required in both chambers.

Proponents of both bills cited economic growth, while those in opposition focused on potential rises in gambling addiction.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Presiding Officer of the Senate, has said the Senate “lacks the GOP support he wants to see for either proposal.”

The House committee voted on a revised casino bill, which would put a portion of gaming tax revenue toward the Texas University Fund (TUF) – a priority of Patrick’s.

The university endowment aims to increase the national rankings and research capabilities of public universities in Texas. TUF would provide funding for four universities that cannot access the Permanent University Fund.

If approved by Texas voters, House Bill 2843 would allow casino gambling and live sports wagering, while House Bill 1942 would legalize online and mobile phone-based sports betting.

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