AUSTIN (Nexstar) – A major player in Texas politics on Thursday pushed for the legalization of sports betting as policymakers draft legislation ahead of their return to the Austin Capitol in January.
Former Republican Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday that he will join the Texas Sports Betting Alliance as spokesman and is pushing for the Lone Star State to join the 35 other states that have already legalized mobile sports betting.
“Legalizing mobile sports betting in Texas would mean implementing smart and efficient oversight to protect the integrity of sporting events, empower Texans to safely participate in mobile sports betting, and fight illegal gambling,” Perry said in one press release. “Given that Texans already participate in mobile sports betting, legalization would be a win-win for all involved.”
Both online sports betting and casinos are illegal in Texas, with the exception of three casinos that operate legally on Native American territory in the Lone Star State under federal law. Despite casino lobby groups putting millions of dollars in the pockets of policymakers over the past few years, state legislatures have made no progress on legalization in the 2021 legislature.
Proponents hope Perry’s endorsement will help push the needle further.
“We’re going into this session with a lot of good momentum just based on the work we did before Gov. Perry even joined our team,” said Cara Gustafson, spokeswoman for the Texas Sports Betting Alliance.
Gustafson said Texans already place an estimated $8.7 billion in illegal bets through offshore betting sites. Allianz estimates that if legalized, Texas would generate more than $556 million per biennium.
Lt. gov. Dan Patrick previously said it’s not enough money to consider legalizing online sports betting, but advocates say consumers will be harmed as long as the state doesn’t regulate it.
“These offshore betting sites – there is no protection for your private and financial information. You put all your information out there and there is a risk that it will be stolen.”
Opponents of betting legislation have raised concerns about gambling addiction and the social consequences of gambling. Earlier in the campaign, Governor Greg Abbott expressed his openness to at least legalizing casinos, but with restrictions.
“We don’t want slot machines at every corner store, we don’t want Texans losing money they need for their day-to-day expenses, and we don’t want any type of crime that could be associated with gaming,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary, opposite the Houston Chronicle. “But if there’s a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Governor Abbott would look at it.”
Geoff Zochodne, a reporter for Covers.com – a sports betting company – said legalizing sports betting would be huge for the state.
“If Texas introduced some form of legal sports betting that would be huge because then you could potentially have a team like the Dallas Cowboys who are loved not just in Texas but by fans all over the world… with the possibility of Incorporating sports betting…you might start seeing ads popping up around AT&T [Center]said Geoff Zochodne.
State Senator Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said she is confident her legislation will make it across the finish line during this legislature, especially after it has garnered more bipartisan support. The senator earlier this week filed an order that would allow casino gambling in Texas. If their constitutional amendment is passed and approved by voters, saying Alvarado, you will help “foster economic development and job growth” and establish the Texas Gaming Commission.
“It’s about time we let voters decide whether Texas should legalize gambling. Texans spend an estimated $5 billion on out-of-state gambling every year,” Alvarado said. “Legalizing casino gaming would not only bring that revenue back to Texas, but also create tens of thousands of permanent jobs in Texas and potentially hundreds of thousands of immediate construction jobs.”