A cheer went up from the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon following the approval of a referendum to put a Texas online sports betting question on the November 2023 general election ballot and let Texas voters decide its fate.
Rep. Jeff Leach’s (R-67) referendum, HJR 102, needed 100 or more votes on third reading to be sent over to the Senate. During yesterday’s second reading the referendum only received 97 votes in favor, three short of the necessary 100.
On third reading the House cast 101 votes in the referendum’s favor and 42 against. Cheering was certainly in order, as this is the farthest sports betting legislation has ever moved through the Texas legislative body.
At least in the House, Texas sports betting is viewed in a positive light. The Senate, on the other hand, may be a more difficult journey.
House of Representatives favor sports betting
The House also voted in favor of Leach’s online sports betting bill, HB 1942, by a vote of 82-51. If both are approved by the Senate before the legislative session ends on May 29, Texas voters will hold the fate of sports betting in their hands during the Nov. 7, 2023 election.
Leach’s online sports betting bill is supported by the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, which is comprised of Texas professional sports franchises, sports leagues, race tracks, and sports betting platforms. The proposed laws will allow for the legalization of online sports betting through Texas professional sports teams. If approved, WNBA, MLS, MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL franchises in the state will be eligible for online sports betting licenses.
An amendment was approved yesterday to allow NASCAR to participate in sports betting as well.
Leach’s bill sets the online sports betting tax rate at 10% of adjusted gross sports betting revenue and each license will cost $500,000.
Jeremy Kudon, President of the Sports Betting Alliance, praised the Texas House for its approval.
“This is a huge day for Texas sports fans. For the first time ever, the Texas House considered and passed a bill to legalize sports betting. This vote leaves no room for doubt – legalizing sports betting is popular in the Lone Star State. Texans want and deserve the freedom to safely and legally bet on their favorite teams, and they are one chamber away from getting it,” Kudon said in a released statement.
Despite the good news and positive momentum, Texas sports betting now faces its greatest challenge, as it heads to a Senate body that has not been in favor of sports betting in the past years.
Approval in the Senate still unlikely
Despite its approval in the House, Senate approval still remains unlikely. Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has long been an opponent of legalized sports betting and previously said there is not enough traction in the Senate for sports betting to be approved this session.
Patrick appeared on 660 AM’s Mark Davis Show in late April and said from the first day of the legislative session there was no support for either sports betting or expanded gaming in the Senate.
“From day one, and this goes back to November we meet before we go in for a caucus meeting, the republicans, and we talk about all the issues. We had zero support from casino gambling or sports betting. When I say zero support, there wasn’t anyone who was interested. It doesn’t mean there was not one, or two, or three who would vote for it. We had a sports bill filed, we had not had a casino bill filed,” he said on the show.
Patrick said there are currently no votes in the Senate for a casino bill or a sports betting bill. Unless 15 or 16 Republican Senators are in favor of the bill, Patrick said he will not bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
“I need to have consensus by the Republicans, otherwise it’s a bill that the Democrats are passing. We don’t do that in the Senate,” he said.
There are 31 members in the Texas Senate and a bill needs 21 votes (two-thirds majority) for approval. There are currently 12 Democrat Senators. If all vote for the bill, they’d just need nine Republican votes for two-thirds majority, right?
Well, not exactly. Patrick will not bring a bill to the floor for a unless it has the support of 15 or 16 Republican Senators. If only nine Republican Senators are in favor of one of the bills, it becomes a “Democrat” led bill and Patrick won’t call it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Source Saturday Down South Reporter ROBERT LINNEHAN