87th LegislatureElections 2022IssuesTaxes & SpendingSports Betting Remains Illegal in Texas as Survey Estimates Americans Will Wager $3.1 Billion During March Madness

Texas lawmakers considered sports betting legislation last year, but the proposals did not make it out of committee.
March 24, 2022
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As Texas remains without a legal sports betting market, the American Gaming Association (AGA) published survey results that estimated Americans will bet $3.1 billion during March Madness.

In fact, approximately 17 percent of Americans intend to place bets during the tournament, with 20.9 million of those placing bets through a retail sportsbook, over the internet, with a bookmaker, or privately with friends, according to research commissioned by the AGA.

The association stated that the survey was conducted by Morning Consult, which polled 2,210 adults online from February 26-27 with a margin of error of at least 2 percent. The AGA announced the results on March 13.

An estimated 76 percent of the bets Americans will make during March Madness will likely occur outside of bracket pools. Last year’s percentage was 55 percent.

The survey estimated that 36.5 million Americans would place bets through “a bracket contest or similar pool,” for a total of 45 million bettors during March Madness.

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Of the respondents in the survey, 17 percent favored the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win the tournament, while 12 percent were betting on the Duke Blue Devils and 11 percent were pulling for the Kentucky Wildcats.

Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have legalized sports betting since last year’s March Madness tournament.

Overshadowed by more controversial issues, gambling has not necessarily drawn a lot of attention in Texas’ political discourse. However, AGA President and CEO Bill Miller commented on the nationwide survey results as a possible reflection of political sentiments.

“Americans continue to make it clear: they want to waver with the protections of the legal, regulated market,” Miller said in a press release. “There’s no doubt this year will generate the highest legal handle in March Madness history.”

Miller also encouraged the public to “have your game plan to bet responsibly” by “setting a budget, keeping it fun, learning the odds and playing legally.”

Dozens of states have laws allowing sports betting markets that have gone into effect. A handful of other states, including Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio, have legalized sports wagering but their laws are not yet operational.

Opponents of sportsbooks fear that gambling is conducive to addiction and sullies sports by setting a poor example for children and teens. Witnesses and lawmakers made arguments along these lines at a hearing last year when sports betting bills were heard in the Texas House State Affairs Committee.

One supporter of legalizing sports betting, Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), did not run for reelection and will not be returning for another regular legislative session. Huberty was the primary author of House Bill (HB) 2070, which would have constructed a mechanism to license sports betting operations.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. is laying the groundwork for a battle over legalizing gambling in Texas next year, including casinos. Texas Sands, a new political action committee funded by Sands majority shareholder Dr. Miriam Adelson, gave more than half of a million dollars to Texas legislative races before the primary election.

Allowing sportsbooks would likely require the approval of a constitutional amendment by Texas voters, as the Texas Constitution currently prohibits most forms of gambling. The Texas Lottery and charitable raffles are examples of exceptions listed in the state constitution.

Huberty’s bill was the enabling legislation for a constitutional amendment to do just that, and he was not the only lawmaker backing it. His bill had coauthors ranging from Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) to Rep. John Bucy (D-Austin).

Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) also introduced similar legislation in the Texas Senate, but the Senate Business and Commerce Committee never acted on it.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a 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."