88th LegislatureIssuesTaxes & SpendingFormer Gov. Rick Perry Backs Legal Sports Betting as New Spokesperson for Interest Group

Texas is among a minority of states that have not created a legal sports betting market since it became permissible under federal law.
November 17, 2022
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Former Gov. Rick Perry announced his support for the establishment of a legal sports betting market as the new spokesperson for the Texas Sports Betting Alliance (TSBA).

The interest group announced the former governor’s new role in the organization on Thursday in a news release, which indicated that Texans have placed $8.7 billion in illegal bets so far in 2022.

“Texas is built on the core principle of individual freedom, and we pride ourselves on being an economic powerhouse in the nation,” Perry said. “Legalizing mobile sports betting in Texas will finally allow the state to protect consumers from illegal, offshore betting sites while keeping the money generated from betting in Texas to benefit Texans.”

“Legalizing mobile sports betting will uphold our state’s guiding principles and give Texans the voice they deserve on this issue.”

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that states could create legal sports betting markets without running afoul of federal law. Since then, 35 states have legalized sports betting by some method, per the TSBA.

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The Legislature heard testimony on sports betting and casinos during the regular session in 2021. Representatives of professional sports leagues contended it would benefit the state’s economy. One survey estimated that Americans wagered $3.1 billion during March Madness this year.

In its news release, the TSBA estimated that the state of Texas could “generate” $556 million every two years from legal sports wagering “as the market matures.”

Opponents fear the expansion of sports betting as a legal activity could sully sports and erode the state’s strong laws against gambling. There are also those who contend it is improper for the government to create programs that privilege only a handful of companies or organizations.

Even if the Legislature permitted sports betting or casinos, it would likely not be a free-for-all. Past proposals have included a licensure program that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for applicants. Texas voters would also have to approve amendments to the state constitution, which prohibits most forms of gambling.

Though Gov. Greg Abbott has been opposed to gambling in the past, his office signaled in October that he would be open to limited casino gambling legalization. Abbott’s campaign has received hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from pro-casino interests, including a $1 million check from Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Constitutional amendments do not require the governor’s signature, but any enabling legislation to enact laws establishing a sports betting market or to license commercial casinos would need Abbott’s approval.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke backed legalizing casinos and sports betting in April among many other policy positions. Abbott overwhelmingly defeated O’Rourke in the general election.

Of course, even if the governor and the Legislature are open to casinos, that does not necessarily mean they will be open to sports wagering. However, Abbott’s openness to casinos is an interesting data point to consider as lawmakers gather in Austin sooner than two months from now.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."