In a hearing that took place on March 22nd, a Texas House committee heard evidence on proposed pieces of legislation that seek gambling expansion in the state so that mobile sports betting and casino resorts are included in the legal sector.
First, the committee heard House Bill 1942 by Representative Jeff Leach which seeks to legalize sports betting services in Texas, along with the planned constitutional amendment that would have to be approved along with the proposed piece of legislation. The measure has been supported by the most prominent sports betting companies and many local professional teams.
The other bill heard yesterday was House Bill 2843, written and sponsored by Representative John Kuempel, which would make casino gambling legal in the state by establishing eight destination resort casinos in Texas. According to testimony by the bill’s author, the measure is supported by Las Vegas Sands Corp. – a gambling giant that is known for hiring a large number of lobbyists to influence local lawmakers and has also contributed millions in contributions to political campaigns.
The supporters of the two pieces of legislation pointed out the economic benefits that would come to the state of Texas through construction projects and investments, new jobs, and tax revenue. As previously reported, the opponents of the proposed gambling expansion concentrate on the potential negative effects that new gambling services could result in, such as family violence, more crime and addiction.
Various Aspects of the Bills to Be Considered as Lawmakers’ Opinions Collide
So far, the Texas House committee has not voted on any of the pieces of legislation but this does not mean it would not happen at its next meeting. In case any of the bills gets the committee approval, it would then head to the House Calendars Committee, which is entitled to decide when the piece of legislation would be placed for a vote on the Texas House floor.
Currently, betting on parimutuel dog and horse racing is the only form of gambling that is not suspended by the State Constitution. This basically means that any change of the existing status quo, such as the legalization of casino and mobile sports betting services would require a constitutional amendment to become a reality. In order for the changes to be officially approved, the constitutional amendment has to be backed by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate chambers. Then, the proposed legislative measure will head to the Governor’s desk and if signed by the Governor, state voters would have to make the final decision on the matter in a November ballot.
According to Representative Leach, HB 1942 can hardly be described as an expansion of gambling because it is more of a regulation of sports betting. Local customers are already spending billions of dollars every year through offshore, illegal and unregulated bookmaker platforms, so the proposed piece of legislation seeks to change that by allowing Texans to make sports wagers online. The measure would give the green light to mobile sports betting alone and would suspend brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in the state.
The bill would provide professional sports teams with the chance to partner with a mobile sports betting operator to offer sports betting services, with a 10% tax rate on the gross gaming revenue applicable, which would be one of the lowest tax rates in the US. The fresh tax revenue is set to be used to fund public education projects.
When it comes to the hearing of HB 2843, this has been the first time when a measure seeking to allow so-called destination casino resorts has gathered support from leading state officials. As mentioned above, the proposed piece of legislation would allow for eight destination casino resorts – two in the Houston area, two in Dallas-Fort Worth, and one in San Antonio, McAllen, and Corpus Christi. The location of the final, eighth resort was not unveiled.
According to the sponsors of the bill, the establishment of brick-and-mortar casino resorts would create about 100,000 temporary construction jobs and about 70,000 permanent jobs across the state. Apart from that, the measure would allow the Legislature to add legal sports betting services to the state’s legal gambling market.