CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Gambling on sports remains illegal in Texas, but some experts are still expecting Texans to wager on this years super bowl. What could you expect if it were legal here?
“It’s not a matter of should there be sports betting," said Joe Asher, president of sports betting for International Game Technology. "There is sports betting. Question is, should it be legal, regulated, taxed?”
Since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowed states to make the decision to legalize it, over 30 states have legalized some form of waging on sports.
The National Council of Legislators for Gaming States (NCLGS) recently convened in Austin, TX. It has helped Texas gain momentum to legalize sports betting.
Daniel Wallach was in attendance at the (NCLGS). He founded the first sports betting firm, Wallach legal. He's a nationally known sports gambling attorney and occasionally serves as a legal analyst for the online publication, The Athletic.
“Texas is very unique because there are no existing casinos and the presence of horse racing and native American tribal casinos is very minimal. So, the great state of Texas is almost like this blank canvas.”
He added that Texas could be the first state to have the primary stakeholders be the professional sports team. An initiative has begun to make that happen.
For it to become legal, Wallach said it's likely to be passed as a constitutional amendment and then would need a majority vote by Texans.
A quick poll of customers at Hardknocks Sports Grill, think many will gamble on the Super Bowl. So, should it be legal?
“Why not?” exclaimed Christine Benson.
“Uh 50/50.” Martin Ramos said.
“It’s a common thing for everybody," Carolina Adams said. "I just feel like it should be legalized in Texas, but you know how gambling goes in Texas.”
“If they legalize it they can draw taxes from it and so many people wouldn’t have to do illegal activities," said Deneatria Atkins.
It's up to each state to decide what body of government would oversee gambling operations, where revenue would go and so on.
In it's infancy, sports gambling has become a lucrative business.
“Texas looms as the number one market in the country and could generate a handle in excess of $2 billion per month," said Wallach. "Which could generate several billion dollars of operator revenue. And in all likelihood, a minimum of half a billion dollars annually in state tax collections and that’s a lot of money to address a number of societal ills.”
Whether it's the customers at Hardknocks or Wallach and Asher, they all agree bets are still being made in Texas.
“Clearly people all across Texas are betting on sports, you know, they’re just forced to do it illegally in the black market,”
That could come in the form of off shore websites or a local bookie.
Neighboring states could be a factor in the legislature’s decision. Louisiana is the most recent state to legalize sports betting.
"The longer Texas waits, what will happen in this vacuum is that Texans will either gamble illegally or they’re going to cross the border and give their tax dollars to neighboring states," said Wallach. "Because it could be as simple as driving across the border and then downloading the app and wagering on your mobile device.”
Barring any special legislature sessions, the earliest we could see something on a ballot would be the 2023 general election. The earliest it would go into effect would be 2024.
There are bipartisan bills that have been introduced in the state House and Senate. The Senate bill was introduced by local Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinijosa. Those bills have only been introduced in early 2021.