There is one issue most Texans agree on — legalizing gambling in Texas. State Rep. Dan Huberty has filed a bill to do just that.
Introduced as House Bill (HB) 2070, and co-sponsored with District 117 Rep. Philip Cortez, Huberty’s bill would regulate sports wagering in Texas, require an occupational permit, authorize a fee, impose a tax, create criminal offenses, and, most important, decriminalize wagering on sports events.
“Sports betting is already here and here to stay,” Huberty said in an email to The Tribune. “Illegal sports betting is growing in Texas, with an estimated $5 billion in illegal bets placed each year.”
Huberty’s defense of the bill is that the state should provide oversight since Texans are gambling anyway.
“If Texans are going to participate in sports betting regardless of legal status,” he wrote, “our state should implement smart and efficient oversight to preserve the integrity of sporting events, empower Texans to safely participate in sports wagering, and allow law enforcement to fight illegal gambling: a win for all involved.”
Huberty’s bill has already caught the attention of Texas media. A Dallas Morning News article noted Huberty’s bill and cited its own polling with the University of Texas at Tyler showing 57 percent of Texans support allowing casino gambling while 29 percent are opposed, and 13 percent say it does not matter to them.
It does matter to Mattress Mack, Jim McIngvale, who described in detail his recent trip to Colorado to place a bet on the Super Bowl — because sports betting is illegal in Texas. In an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle, McIngvale said he would much rather have the tax revenue from his bets directly benefit the people of Texas rather than Coloradoans.
He called out Huberty’s House Bill 2070 that would “ … give voters the freedom to decide whether or not they want to legalize sports betting in the state,” he wrote.
The news article points out that Texans spend $2.5 billion annually on gambling operations in other states stating, as Huberty does, that proponents say keeping that revenue in Texas could provide needed revenue for education and other services.
As Mattress Mac pointed out, allowing gambling in Texas is a complex process. It requires two bills — one to amend the constitution and another to detail all the rules and regulations. Texas voters would have to approve the change to the constitution, too.
Expanding gambling in Texas has always been a long shot. Changing the constitution, opposing religious groups, the Las Vegas and Native American casino owners, going head-to-head with some of Texas’s most powerful politicians.
But Mattress Mack supports it, and then, there is that state revenue dip thanks to the pandemic.
“We are facing an estimated budget deficit of nearly $1 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Huberty wrote to The Tribune. “Revenue from sports betting could bring in as much as $180 million in its first year that could grow to as much as $400 million soon. Sports betting will create new jobs and can help Texas properly fund critical programs such as education, health care, or tax relief.”
Huberty has a long list of other priorities, too. He has introduced 26 bills in the House. One would fund the creation of the Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District “ … providing the authority to issue bonds … (HB 2525)” Another would create a commission to recommend improvements to funding for special education in public schools (HB 3703).
Huberty has proposed a constitutional amendment (HJR 2) to create two funds which provide financial support for projects that “ … enhance the reliability of water, electricity, natural gas and broadband utilities in this state.” He also introduced resolutions honoring the memories of former Humble ISD superintendent Dr. Guy Sconzo (HR 13) and Atascocita resident Tammy Broussard (HR 114).
A complete list of the 26 bills Huberty has introduced can be viewed at capitol.texas.gov/Reports/Report.aspx?ID=author & LegSess=87R & Code=A2285.
As Huberty told The Tribune in a previous email, “I am looking forward to working on other issues this year besides just education … we have a bill we will be filing soon to fix some of the issues we have found. I am energized to keep working and am happy to continue to represent District 127.”