AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Making his rounds on radio stations last week, Lt Gov. Dan Patrick signaled it might be ‘game over’ in the Legislature’s renewed effort to legalize casino gambling and sports betting.
Speaking on The Mark Davis Show last Tuesday, Patrick said the Senate has “zero support” for both legislative proposals.
“Our members have been clear: they’re not in support today. We don’t have any votes in the Senate,” Patrick said. “Couldn’t find one Senator who supported it.”
However, one of Patrick’s top allies, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Houston, is sponsoring SJR 39, a constitutional amendment that would allow Texans to wager on sports, if they were to approve it on a November ballot.
Patrick made a dig at the Texas House, saying he refuses to pass a bill that has a majority of Democrats — but not Republicans — in support of the legislation.
“Unless I have 15 to 16 Republicans, meaning it’s a Republican-driven bill because we’re a Republican-driven state, I’m not bringing a bill to the floor,” he said. “I need Republican consensus otherwise, it’s a Democrat bill.”
In a March hearing on HJR 102 in the House, author of the bill Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said it would advance “freedom and liberty” in Texas and allow the state to monetize on something already happening.
“There are hundreds of our constituents — citizens of all ages, including minors — who right now, especially with March Madness, are placing unsafe, unsecure, illegal, criminal bets very easily,” Leach said.
Leach’s bill was left pending in the House State Affairs Committee.
Opponents of betting legislation have raised concerns about gambling addiction and the social consequences of gambling, a worry often raised by conservative religious groups in Texas.
Mark Jones, a politics professor at Rice University, says the debate is a clash of business interests and conservative family values.
“The lieutenant governor has serious qualms about the merits and benefits of gambling. That is, I think he sees the negative social consequences of gambling as often outweighing the revenue benefits,” Jones said.
According to the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, more than 73,000 bet attempts from Texas were blocked during the opening week of March Madness. The group says these attempts were prevented by GeoComply, a technology that identifies users where sports betting is illegal.