What was once the bastion of smoke-filled sports books in Las Vegas and Reno casinos is now commonplace around the country. Sports betting is legal in some form in 30 states plus D.C., with New York the latest to jump on the bandwagon. A new report estimates with the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl coming up, sports wagering is headed for a record month to start off 2022.
But none of this includes Texas, which continues to be a holdout on nearly all forms of legalized gambling, save for bingo and horse tracks. Last year, a bill to legalize casino-style gambling in Texas failed in the legislature.
Nevertheless, proponents of legal sports betting believe the tide is changing in the Lone Star State. "By 2023, the number of states that will have legalized sports betting will be in the 40s," says Cara Gustafson with the Sports Betting Alliance. "Texas is going to continue being part of that conversation, and we're going to continue bringing it up."
Gustafson tells KTRH that by holding out on legalizing sports betting, Texas is only delaying the inevitable and costing itself billions in revenue. "Sports betting is already here in Texas, it's just illegal," she says. "It's estimated that five billion dollars in illegal sports betting is happening in Texas every year."
Even Mattress Mack, who recently placed a massive bet on the college football national championship game as a hedge in his free furniture contest, admitted he had to place the bet out of state since it is illegal in Texas. "If we legalize it here, all of those revenues that we create from sports betting, which is already huge in Texas, will stay right here in our state," says Gustafson.
A poll last year showed nearly six-in-ten Texans support some form of legalized gambling, and that is who will ultimately decide the issue for the state. "Yes, lawmakers would have to pass it and the governor would have to sign it, but at the end of the day it would go onto the ballot," says Gustafson. "So it comes down to do Texas voters want it? Polls have been showing that they absolutely support it, and we need to give them that chance."