Gambling expansion bills have stalled and their sponsors said they won’t become law this year

Sports betting, casinos in Texas seem to be a no-go this year

Despite gambling interest, lawmakers who authored bills to bring casinos and sports betting to Texas said they won't become law this year.
2021-05-14
Reading time 2:29 min
With less than a month left at the legislative session, none of the bills has been approved so far. They would have allowed sports betting, the opening of new casino resorts in major cities, and the tribes to expand into full-fledged gambling. The state’s biggest sports teams are reportedly planning a major new effort to legalize sports betting.

Despite gambling interest, lawmakers who authored bills to bring casinos and sports betting to Texas said they won't become law this year, reports the Dallas Morning News.  

Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin said: “There’s no time for it to pass this session.”

With less than a month left at the legislative session, none of the gaming bills to expand gaming in Texas has been approved so far. A key deadline passed Monday without action in the Texas House on casino legislation backed by Las Vegas Sands.

Given that the Texas Constitutes bans most forms of gambling, the legislation would have needed a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and then the support of a majority of voters in order to become law.

Kuempel added that there wasn’t the political appetite to pass the bills this session, especially after lawmakers learned that budget holes they hoped to fill with gambling revenues would be shallower than previously expected.

However, regardless of the outcome Kuempel and Sen. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat who partnered with Kuempel on the effort, said they believe momentum is on their side.

Alvarado, who has filed some version of this legislation for more than a decade said: “I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been. We’ve known all this is a long-term attempt.”

Alvarado and Kuempel’s bills would have let voters decide whether to amend the state Constitution to legalize gambling. The aim was to allow sports betting as well as eventually bring casino resorts to several major cities. The bills would have also allowed the state’s three federally recognized Indian tribes to expand into full-fledged gambling, including slot machines, on their land, a right the state has long denied them. Several major sports franchises also threw their support behind an effort to legalize just sports betting.

That bill, which also needed the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers, would have allowed the state to sell permits, known as “skins,” to online sports betting platforms like DraftKings or FanDuel to partner with pro sports franchises or horse racetracks. Some skins would allow only for mobile betting while others would have permitted on-site wagering at stadiums and tracks. 10% of winnings were supposed to go into state coffers to spend on public schools. 

The Sports Betting Alliance, which counts several Dallas pro teams including the Cowboys, Mavericks, and Texas Rangers among its members, issued a statement noting that their bill had stalled out but they were still hoping to get a committee vote on a resolution to regulate unofficial, or offshore, sports betting apps that don’t provide consumer protections.

The largest investment in expanding gaming came from the Las Vegas Sands Corp. 
In addition to a major ad campaign, which will continue throughout the session, the Sands spent at least $3 million on 74 lobbyists to make their case. They, too, struck a positive tone in a statement on Friday.

Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government affairs for the Las Vegas Sands, said: “We have said from the beginning that we’re committed to Texas for the long haul. 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 added they would work through the rest of the session, and afterward, to “ultimately turn this vision into a reality.”

Kuempel put it more simply saying that if he is re-elected, he will try again when lawmakers next meet in 2023, saying: “Let’s roll the dice!” 

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