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Two gambling expansion bills pass Texas House committee

Texas gambling news - sports betting bill gets House approval

Two gambling bills have advanced from the committee stage to the next in the Texas State House of Representatives. HB 1942 and HB 2843 passed with a majority vote from House State Affairs on Monday, which means they will be up for deliberation and a possible vote on the House floor soon.  

HB 1942 and HB 2843 – written respectively by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) and Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) – finally got a favourable 9-3 vote after a long hearing discussing the merits and demerits of both bills’ proposition. HB 1942 seeks to introduce mobile sports betting, while HB 2843 is asking for the creation of “destination resorts” in the state. 

Monday made it the first time a bill calling for expanded wagering in Texas passed the committee hearing stage. Historically, Texas has not been favourable towards modern forms of gambling with the state only permitting wagering on lotteries, horse and greyhound racing, and bingo. 

However, the recent development does not mean victory for gambling advocates, rather it is a step forward in what looks like a long journey. For the propositions of both bills to see the light of day, there has to be an amendment to Texas Constitution with two-thirds of Senate and House members voting for it. However, Republican lawmakers in the state are not too keen on that happening.  

In a heated debate during the committee hearing last month, Republican House members argued how legalizing a potentially addictive gambling form would erode family values. However, members on the other side of the divide mentioned that Texans are already gambling with unregulated offshore operators. 

Furthermore, the state continues to lose precious revenue by turning its back on online gambling and casinos. A study by the American Gaming Association found that illegal sports betting is costing states about $700 million in annual tax revenue.

If the bills get majority vote on the House floor, they still have the Senate to contend with. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding officer of the Senate, does not see a consensus happening soon on expanding gambling in Texas. 

In an interview with a media outlet, he noted, “Our members have been clear: They’re not in support today. We don’t have any votes in the Senate for a casino bill… Couldn’t find one Senator who supported it.” 

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