Texas Casino, Sports Betting Bill Filed by State Senator

Texas state Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) is preparing to bring casino gaming and sports betting legislation to the floor during the state’s 2023 legislative session.

texas casino
Texas state Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) at a 2018 debate. She’s proposing Texas casino and sports betting legislation. (Image: Houston Chronicle)

On Monday, she prefiled Senate Joint Resolution 17, which if passed, would set the stage for the creation of the Texas Gaming Commission. That body would regulate commercial gaming, including casinos and sports betting, in the second-largest state.

Alvarado’s bill allows for a small number of casinos in the state’s major cities. The legislation doesn’t go into specifics, but the Lone Star’s biggest cities are Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin — all of which are likely appealing to commercial gaming companies that have long plotted entry into Texas.

Prefiling bills is a perfunctory move and Alvarado’s resolution cannot be considered until the state House and Senate convene for the 2023 session in January. There’s a small window for her to advance the proposal, because Texas lawmakers are scheduled to be in session through May 29.

Her resolution proposes a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR) from table games and a 25% levy on GGR from slots.

Still Long Road Ahead

Even if Alvarado’s resolution makes it through committees and onto the floor, gaming expansion in Texas faces an uphill climb.

Passage of the bill requires two-thirds approval from both legislative chambers, and each are controlled by Republicans — some of which are opposed to casino gaming and sports wagering. Assuming Senate Joint Resolution 17 can make it that far, the proposal would appear on the November 2023 ballot and require a majority of Texas voters to say, “Yes.” That’s how the state’s constitution can be amended.

The political climate in the red state isn’t entirely anti-gaming. But it’s still not an easy road. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who easily won reelection last week, recently signaled he’s more open to casinos than previously speculated.

However, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican, opposes expanded gaming and he’s president of the state Senate. While polls suggest most Texans favor adding a casino in the state — and some professional team owners back regulated sports wagering — other big-name Texas businessmen believe the state isn’t likely to move on additional gaming options over the near-term. Gallery Furniture founder and famed baseball bettor Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale recently said as much.

Texas Casino Dream

With the California and Florida gaming scenes controlled by tribal entities, Texas is likely the last large, open frontier for commercial operators in the US. But there’s likely to be a fight there is gaming expansion moves forward.

Some tribes in the state will almost certainly want a piece of the action, while tribes in Oklahoma, which have long profited from visits by Texans, could move to stall related efforts in the Lone Star state.

Still, it’s easy to see why commercial and tribal operators favor casinos in Texas. The state is growing, unlike California, which is bleeding population. Likewise, putting gaming venues near major cities and approving mobile sports wagering would put the Texas gaming landscape light years ahead of California.

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