State lawmaker files bill to legalize Texas casinos and sports betting

Legal Texas Casinos
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State legislators won’t start meeting to discuss potential gambling expansion until January, but that doesn’t stop lawmakers from pre-filing bills and initiatives to address in the new year.

One such lawmaker is state Sen. Carol Alvarado of Texas. On Tuesday Alvarado pre-filed a joint resolution to amend the state constitution to allow for Texas casinos as well as the legalization of sports betting in the Lone Star State.

Currently, Texas offers very few gambling options. The state has the lottery, there is legal charity gaming, and, after a recent SCOTUS ruling, there is limited tribal bingo as well.

Resolution would put casinos, horse racing, and greyhound racing on the ballot

Alvarado’s proposed resolution endorses the expansion of gambling to include:

  • Up to four Class 1 gaming facilities in metropolitan areas with a population of at least 2 million people.
  • Up to three Class 2 gaming licenses for facilities to allow horse racing and limited casino gaming in metropolitan areas with a population of at least 2 million people
  • Up to two Class 3 gaming licenses for facilities to allow greyhound racing and limited casino gaming in metropolitan areas with fewer than 2 million people
  • Tribal gaming with slots and casino gaming on tribal land in accordance with federal law

With these population mandates, the Class 1 gaming, described as “destination resorts” would be confined to either Houston or the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The law would also stipulate at least a $2 billion investment in a Dallas-Ft. Worth-area casino and a $1 billion investment in a Houston-area casino.

The taxes on these facilities would be 10% on gross gaming revenue (GGR) of table games and 25% on slot GGR.

Sports betting mentioned, but lacking in details

Sports betting is mentioned briefly at the end of the resolution, with few details on what that would involve. The constitutional amendment would create a gaming commission that would have the power to “authorize sports betting”, but there are no specifics if that betting would be retail, online, or both.

Monday was the first day for Texas lawmakers to pre-file, so Alvarado’s resolution is just one of hundreds of submissions. Her proposal is more difficult than a standard law as well, as it requires a ballot referendum to amend the state constitution.

Long road including a legislative vote and ballot measure

In order to even get on the ballot, the measure would need a two-thirds majority vote in both the Texas house and the senate.

First step is to get the bill heard in a committee, which won’t happen until 2023. The Texas legislature begins its 2023 session on January 10 and it will conclude on May 29. Texas is unusual in that it only runs legislative sessions in odd-numbered years, so if the measure fails, there won’t be another chance to revisit it until 2025.

If the measure does get passed, it would be put to the voters in the November 2023 state election.