Why Texas Is Still Refusing to Legalize Online Gambling

Mad Man With Texas Flag And Poker Table

You’d think that the birthplace of Texas Hold’em would feature a robust gambling market. However, Texas is one of the least tolerant states towards gambling.

The only forms of legal gambling in the Lone Star State include charity bingo, raffles, horse racing, and tribal gaming. The tribal casinos can only offer Class II gaming, which relates to poker and bingo-style games.

Texas is in the minority of states that don’t currently offer traditional (Class III) casinos. However, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. recently tried to change this by lobbying hard for Texas casinos.

The Sands failed in their mission, though, when their proposed bill didn’t even make it onto the legislative floor. Below, you can read more on the Sands’ efforts and why Texas still remains without regular casinos.

What Is the Current Texas Gambling Scene Like?

A few decades ago, Texas didn’t even allow charity or social gaming. It has changed somewhat by now tolerating legal bingo, raffles, and poker home games.

Many other common forms of gambling, though, still remain outlawed in the state. The tribal gaming venues can only offer bingo-style slot machines and poker.

Texas does feature both betting on horse racing and greyhound racing—the latter of which is becoming rarer by the year. If you’re a racing fan, then you can at least visit a few tracks within the state.

Online gambling isn’t specifically mentioned in Texas’ criminal code. It remains a gray area in the Lone Star State. With that said, many offshore sportsbooks, poker rooms, and casinos serve Texas.

Las Vegas Sands Wanted to Bring Traditional Casinos to Texas

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its late owner, Sheldon Adelson, began pushing for Class III casinos in the latter part of 2020. Adelson passed away in January 2021, but his company continued the pursuit of Texas casinos anyway.

The Sands’ campaign started with hiring various lobbyists in the state. Additionally, Adelson personally donated $500,000 to Gov. Greg Abbott shortly before passing away.

Texas State Flag

In all, the company would pour over $6 million into its Texas efforts. The gaming giant had hoped that its heavy investment would pay off.

However, their proposed bill never drew a vote. It didn’t even earn a committee hearing, which would’ve been just the first step to eventual approval.

Reasons Why Texas Casino Efforts Failed

A combination of reasons killed the Texas casino push. Below, you can see the main factors that ultimately prevented casinos from being legalized.

Sheldon Adelson Passed Away

Adelson never got to see how his company’s push for TX casinos turned out. He died due to complications from treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Worth $30 billion at the time, Adelson was a well-connected and heavy political donator. He was known as the “kingmaker” due to his ability to get politicians elected.

Adelson was already working his magic with the $500k donation to Abbott. He very well may have spent much more if he had lived past Jan. 2021.

Most Eyes Were Focused on the Pandemic

Las Vegas Sands began its agenda to legalize Texas casinos in 2020. However, this is also the same year the world health crisis was ravaging the world.

The pandemic forced attention everywhere except gambling. Even Las Vegas casinos shut down for months until the infection rate decreased.

Man Wearing Mask and Casino Cards

With that said, the state legislature wasn’t overly concerned with a gaming bill. Instead, it had more important matters to worry about.

Dan Patrick Didn’t Favor the Bill

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a notable figure in Texas politics. His full support would’ve gone a long way towards making casinos legal in the state. However, Patrick never expressed any support for the legislation.

During an interview on The Chad Hasty Show, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick stated that the bill ‘would not see the light of day’ in the 2021 session.

Patrick explained how he didn’t feel the State Senate had the necessary votes to pass the measure. He also said that he didn’t personally favor expanding gambling.

Had the Lt. Gov. supported the legislation, then it might’ve gained more momentum. Patrick didn’t, though, which dealt another blow to the casino efforts.

Sands Filed the Bill Later Than Expected

Las Vegas Sands didn’t do itself much favor by filing the casino proposal later than expected. As a result, politicians didn’t get much time to view the bill before the 2021 session expired.

Sands felt that they could fine-tune their legislation, file late, and still draw a vote. However, they made a severe miscalculation in this regard.

The late filing meant that Texas politicians didn’t have long to decide if the bill was worthy of a vote. The legislative session ended before they got a true chance to debate the matter.

Texas Didn’t Have a Huge Budget Shortfall

The Lone Star State expected a massive $4.6 billion budget shortfall in 2021. Therefore, it could’ve used casino gaming to help cover the projected shortcomings.

However, Comptroller Glenn Hegar significantly revised his prediction. He now believes that the shortfall will only be $950 million.

Hegar cited how state revenues are much higher than expected. That said, the desperation for additional sources of revenue, like gaming, has vanished for now.

Will Texas Legalize Casinos at Some Point in the Future?

Texas hasn’t been very active on the casino landscape. State politicians seem perfectly content with limited gambling options for now.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before a casino corporation came along and tried to change the status quo. Not surprisingly, it was the world’s richest casino operator that did so.

The Sands poured millions of dollars into lobbying Texas politicians. They ultimately came up well short of getting the state to legalize casinos. However, they did at least plant some seeds for the future.

Texas Sports Betting

Las Vegas Sands probably won’t give up any time soon. After all, they have already invested heavily in their dream of Texas casinos. Even if the Sands backs off this push, another big casino company might step in and continue the lobbying efforts.

Texas will likely offer legal gaming establishments at some point in the future. This point might even come within the next three to five years.

What Options Do You Have for Gambling in Texas Now?

You may not be able to enjoy land-based casinos in Texas right now. However, you can at least look forward to multiple types of real money Texas online casinos.

Online Casinos

The Lone Star State doesn’t technically ban internet gambling. Therefore, many online casinos feel comfortable serving Texans.

Notable gaming sites like Bovada and BetUS are available to this state. These online casinos provide the chance to play slots, blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and many other games.

They also feature cheaper stakes than those found in Las Vegas casinos. Many online slots only require a $0.20 minimum bet. Meanwhile, mobile table games only require a $1 minimum wager.

Online Sports Betting

Like many states, Texas is interested in sports betting. However, it has yet to legalize and regulate either online or land-based sports gambling.

The only betting options currently available to Texans are online sports betting sites. The latter give people the chance to wager on the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.

Many mobile sportsbooks also cover more obscure markets, including everything from darts to volleyball. With that said, you’ll have no shortage of markets to bet on in Texas.

Online Poker

The Lone Star State has quite a history with poker. As mentioned before, it’s the birthplace of Texas hold’em.

It’s also home to many legends regarding underground gambling. For example, 10-time WSOP champion Doyle Brunson used to play in underground card games throughout Texas. He was robbed five different times while doing so.

Despite all of this history, though, Texas has yet to regulate online poker. Luckily, you can still play real money texas holdem at offshore poker sites.

Our Thoughts on the Legality of Texas Gambling

The Las Vegas Sands’ casino bill wasn’t necessarily doomed from the start. The company did spend millions of dollars on lobbying and had a solid proposal.

It was ultimately undone, however, by a combination of factors—everything from the pandemic to a smaller-than-expected budget shortfall prevented this legislation from becoming reality.

Nevertheless, the push for Texas casinos isn’t completely over. The Sands or some other casino corporation will no doubt continue these efforts.

After all, Texas is too lucrative of a market to ignore. It features over 29 million residents and several major metropolitan areas.

It’ll likely feature legal casinos at some point in the future. The only question is when exactly this will happen.