Texas lawmakers last Monday, November 14, pre-subscribed hundreds of House and Senate bills they hope to pass in the 2023 legislative session. Among them is SJR 17: Under the Constitutional Amendment, proposed by Democratic Senator Carol Alvarado of Houston, voters could choose whether to legalize casinos and sports betting.
Both Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been reluctant to challenge religious conservatives who oppose the spread of gambling. However, they are now under intense pressure to consider the new jobs and tax revenue that liberalizing Texas’ strict gambling laws could produce, reports The Dallas Morning News.
Under the proposal, the Legislature could decide whether to legalize sports betting, and a newly created Texas Gaming Commission could issue up to four licenses for luxury resorts, with minimum investments of $2 billion in the Dallas and Houston regions; in addition to smaller scale casinos at existing horse and greyhound racing tracks.
The bill requires that gambling revenues and taxes be collected and allocated to education and public safety. However, once discussions begin, this can always be changed.
The Texas legislative session will begin on January 10 and end on May 29, 2023. The pressure for a constitutional amendment to be enacted in Texas is high. The expansion would become effective if the constitutional amendment is approved by a two-thirds majority of the legislature and state voters in the November 7, 2023 elections.
Details in the bill are scarce at press time, with the document failing to clarify issues such as whether sports betting would be allowed at retail, online or both. As for casino games, a 10% tax is imposed on gross revenue from table games and a 25% tax on gross revenue from slot machines. The sports betting tax rate has yet to be set.
The introduction of a bill on casinos and sports betting even before the session begins is welcome news for supporters of the measure. Given that the legislature did not convene in 2022, next year will be an important year on the road to possible legalization. However, major obstacles stand in the way of legal gambling, especially religious law, which holds great political power in the state.
Still, the game’s supporters got some good news last month when a report cited that Abbott would be willing to change its longstanding opposition stance against legalization. The governor, who was previously against any such release in Texas, would now hear proposals.
“We don’t want slot machines in every corner store, we don’t want Texans to be losing money they need for everyday expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gambling,” said Renae Eze, press secretary. by Abbott, last month in a report by the Houston Chronicle.
“But if there is a way to create a professional entertainment option for Texans, Governor Abbott would look into it,” Eze added.