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Texas residents in favor of legalizing gambling

Texas gambling news - sports betting bill gets House approval

A majority of Texans are in support of a legislative resolution to bring the Lone Star State a step closer to legalizing gambling, according to a recent study by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.

The poll was held between January 9 and January 19 and discovered that around 75% of Texans were all for a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) for the legalization of sports betting and authorizing the creation of around four upscale “destination resorts”.

If passed, the Texas Senate Joint Resolution 17 will allow voters to decide whether to legalize gambling in November 2023. The state will approve a regulated industry only if most of the public decides on the constitutional amendment.

The total number of Texans surveyed was 1,200 in English and Spanish, all over the age of 18. Out of the number, 75% said they supported the TSJR 17 approval, while 41% disclosed they strongly supported the proposal.

Around 34% mildly supported the bill, and 25% of the residents said they did not support it. Around 13% of this number expressed strong opposition to the bill. Out of the entire number of people surveyed, 69% of born-again Christians, as well as 61% of evangelical Protestants, supported the constitutional amendment.

If approved, the resolution will be able to make changes to the industry by allowing a number of reforms. One such reform includes allowing the creation of a destination casino resort in every major metro in the state — Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. It will also permit limited casino gambling in all three existing horse racetracks in Dallas-Forth, Houston, and San Antonio.

As part of the changes, greenhouse racetracks in Harlingen and Corpus Christi will be allowed to offer limited casino gambling. Additionally, the Kickapoo in Eagle Pass, East Texas’ Alabama-Coushatta, and El Paso’s Tigua will be permitted to offer casino gambling and operate slot machines on tribal land. The resolution will also legalize sports betting in Texas.

The tax revenue generated from the activity and gambling venues will be used to fund education and public safety as well as provide tax relief.

The poll revealed significant support for the resolution across almost all gender, social-economic, generational gap, political affiliations, and race subcategories. Some 73% of white, 77% of Latinos, and 88% of black Texans support the resolution. Around 72% of women and 77% of men support the motion.

In the most populous urban counties in Texas, the resolution has 75% supporters and 66% in the suburbs surrounding the counties. There is also 81% support from people living by the Mexican border and 74% of rural Texans.

READ: Top US sports betting sites in 2023

The upcoming legislative session will feature another push for gambling expansion in Texas. Despite recent polls showing strong public support, measures to legalize the activity still have a long way to go in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

There is also the fact that all forms of gambling are prohibited in the Texas Constitution. Two measures need to pass in order for the activity to be legalized. The first is a resolution for the amendment of the constitution and then a bill to list the licensing and regulation details.

Two-thirds of the House and Senate are needed to approve a constitutional amendment, after which voters will be given the final say.

There has been a noteworthy increase in the lobbying push in favor of the amendment. Las Vegas Sands donated around $3 million to several legislative groups and lawmakers last year. The company, as well as the political action committees and entities associated with it, gave over half the amount, $1.7 million, to Republicans.

Las Vegas Sands also hired 63 lobbyists by this year’s session’s second week. The amount is more than any other entity or company. Per data culled from the Texas Ethics Commission, the gaming operator promised to pay the lobbyists a minimum of $5.9 million this year.

Gov. Greg Abbott has remained adamant in the past years about loosening Texas gambling laws; however, last fall, Renae Eze, his spokeswoman, revealed that he was open to expansion.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) spoke to reporters earlier this month, revealing that he was not against bringing resort-style gaming venues to the state. He disclosed that he was against slot machines being found in convenience stores.

Although some prominent GOP leaders’ opposition to the activity has lessened, there is a significant impediment to the legalization of gambling. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is responsible for allocating all senate legislation to the committee he chooses. The Republican stated in December last year that he did not “see any movement on it”.

TSJR is currently the only resolution concerning sports betting or gambling filed in Texas. No similar resolution has been filed in the house. Lawmakers will be in session till May 29.

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