A new survey by the University of Houston found that Texans support changes in the state’s gambling laws.
The survey came from the university’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. It found that 75% of residents support a recent bill to expand gambling in the state. Only 13% say they strongly oppose the measure. Additionally, 69% support a separate bill to legalize in-person and online sports betting.
Renee Cross, representing the Hobby School, said:
Texas has historically had strict laws regulating most forms of gaming, even as neighboring states have expanded opportunities for casino gambling. Opponents have historically had powerful allies in the Legislature, but we found the public appears ready to back major changes in how Texas regulates gambling.
Mark P. Jones is a fellow researcher at the Hobby School. He points out that support exists across political affiliations, religious views, ethnic backgrounds, and other demographic categories.
For instance, here is the rate of support among various demographics:
- Race: 83% of Black residents, 77% of Latinos, and 73% of whites
- Gender: 78% of men and 72% of women
- Political Affiliation: 80% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans
- Place of Residence: 75% in urban areas, 74% in rural areas, and 66% in the suburbs
- Religion: 69% of born-again Christians and 61% of Evangelical Protestants, two groups that historically oppose gambling
The news should be encouraging to proponents of gambling expansion, including online sports betting and online casinos.
Unfortunately, although the public is increasingly accepting of the idea of expanded gambling in Texas, lawmakers are less keen.
Texas Gambling Support Is Picking Up Speed
Senator Carol Alvarado introduced Texas Senate Joint Resolution 17 (SJR 17) in November 2022. The bill, if passed, would establish a Texas Gaming Commission to oversee four land-based casinos in the state’s major metropolitan areas. It would also legalize sports betting.
The Texas constitution requires an amendment to make such legislation possible. SJR 17 and other gambling expansion bills must pass with a two-thirds majority in both halves of the legislature. After that, the question would be put to the public as a ballot measure. Sen. Alvarado has been trying to push gambling legislation for over a decade with no success. However, there are signs that this year could be different.
In 2023, there is a gambling expansion movement in many states, including some of Texas’s neighbors. Industry lobbyists are also highlighting Texas as one of the few larger states still without sports betting.
Furthermore, the Lone Star State is home to 11 major league sports teams. Team owners have seen the benefits their peers in other states are reaping. For instance, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said he wants to build a casino resort in Dallas alongside a new arena for his team.
These sports owners have banded together to form the Texas Sports Betting Alliance in support of legalization. Even former governor Rick Perry got on board as a spokesperson.
State leaders have taken note. Governor Gregg Abbott said in October that he would look into the bill. House Speaker Dade Phelan likewise said he would be open to resort-style casinos and believes that voters would give their approval.
Texas Is Missing Out on Millions in Tax Revenue
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is another supports of the idea. Like Sen. Alvarado, he has pointed out that gambling is already occurring in the state. Unregulated gambling is unsafe and illegal and doesn’t produce tax revenue.
Alvarado also points out that many Texans cross the border to gamble in Louisiana. She says the parking lots of Louisiana casinos are full of Texas license plates. Louisiana Gaming Control Chairman Ronnie Johns has echoed that statement.
Louisiana isn’t the only destination for Texas gamblers. New Mexico’s retail casinos lined up along the border for western Texans. Colorado and Arizona are also nearby for those who want to try mobile sports betting.
The state stands to benefit from capturing all that lost revenue. It could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. New York, with two-thirds of the population of Texas, collected $680 million in tax revenue in its first year of online sports betting. That money could serve any number of purposes important to the Texas public, including education, border security, or mitigating the effects of inflation.
Views on Gambling Are Changing Across the US
The University of Houston survey should not come as a surprise. There has been a national shift in views toward online gambling and sports betting. Another study by Pew Research Center found that one in five US adults placed a bet last year. Additionally, it found that negative attitudes toward gambling are decreasing. Only 27% of adults under 50 consider gambling to be a bad thing.
Most states now have some form of gambling, and over half now allow sports betting. The normalization of gambling in the mainstream conversation has impacted even anti-gambling states. Only a handful still see no movement on gambling expansion. Lawmakers across the country can no longer ignore the potential tax revenue that prohibition leaves on the table.
Texas may trail many other states in terms of legal gambling options. However, it has made strides in the past. In the 1980s, bets on horse racing became legal. In the 1990s, it established a state lottery, and now it offers more lottery courier apps for online lottery sales than any other state. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before lawmakers heed the public’s wishes and bring expanded gambling to Texas.