Gambling Expansion in Texas Faces Long Odds, Numerous Problems

Grass-roots groups have raised concerns about gambling addiction – and the expensive social consequences of gambling

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) — As mid-April approached, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick signaled to a number of major Texas media outlets that it might be ‘game over’ for the State Legislature’s latest bet to legalize casino gambling and online sports betting, saying that the Senate has “zero support” for both legislative proposals.
“Our members have been clear: they’re not in support today. We don’t have any votes in the Senate.

"Couldn’t find one Senator who supported it,” Patrick said.

And with such a slim chance for passage in the Texas Senate, a growing number of Republicans in the Texas House are wondering why they should be asked to put their necks on the line by voting on gambling legislation in the House – which would be used against them in future election campaigns.

Patrick has also said that he refuses to pass a bill with only a majority of Democrats – but not broad Republican support – as backers. 
“Unless I have 15 to 16 Republicans – meaning it’s a Republican-driven bill, because we’re a Republican-driven state – I’m not bringing a bill to the floor.

"I need Republican consensus, otherwise it’s a Democrat bill,” said Patrick.
  Since then, in neighboring Oklahoma – in a surprising turn that some were watching as another"Red River Rivalry" for the always promised "economic benefits" that backers claim will come with gambling expansion – sports betting legislation in Oklahoma went down in defeat despite the high hopes by some for possible passage in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

What does this mean for the prospect of Texas' sports betting expansion efforts, where a small cadre of legislators want to accomplish the same goals as failed in Oklahoma?

The outcome in neighboring Oklahoma is incredibly frustrating.

While the reasons for Oklahoma falling short may differ from the obstacles that sports betting faces in Texas, the influence of existing Indian Tribal gambling locations on gaming legislation cannot be understated. With only three total tribes, and only one – the Kickapoo Tribe – under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allowing them to offer Class II gaming, tribal considerations still hold significant weight in legislative decisions.

Texas’ tribes did not support Texas sports betting bills as initially issued, and without amendments granting significant tribal considerations, the tribes could also stop legal sports betting bills in their tracks.

In Texas, House Bill 1942 – which would allow online-only sports betting expansion – has yet to make it out of the powerful House Calendars Committee for consideration on the floor of the Texas House.

That is of major concern to backers, as key legislative deadlines are now ticking closer to expiration in Texas' soon-to-be completed 2023 Legislative Session – which adjourns at the end of May.

Its counterparts in the Texas Senate – Senate Bill 715 – has been sitting idle in Senate State Affairs Committee since March 1st, with little chance for advancement.

Opponents of betting legalization in Texas have so far been successful in raising concerns about gambling addiction and the social consequences of gambling, a worry often raised by conservative groups in Texas. 

Mark Jones, a politics professor at Rice University, says the debate is a clash of potential or promised economic interests, versus Texas' conservative family values
“The lieutenant governor has serious qualms about the merits and benefits of gambling.

"I think he sees the negative social consequences of gambling as often outweighing the revenue benefits,” Jones said. 

Organizations such as the Christian Life Commission, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and other family groups recently drew attention to the “associations between gambling and family violence” during a recent committe hearing in Austin, while referencing other states such as Illinois and New Jersey for examples of where major upticks in gambling addiction cases have been noted since the legalization of sports betting.