Texas Two-Step: Casinos and sports betting doing the Lone Star dance By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports February 27, 2021 at 5:00 am Add Caesars Entertainment to the growing list of gaming companies that are more than curious about the possibility of Texas legalizing casinos during its upcoming legislative session. CEO Tom Reeg, however, isn’t holding out much hope. “That’s another state where I’m highly confident there will be significant public interest,” Reeg said on the company’s quarterly conference call last week. “Can you get through the legislature there with all the various competing bodies? The odds would be against you, given what’s happened there historically.” Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston, home of the Houston Astros, could house a retail sportsbook under pending legislation/Shutterstock Maybe sports betting has a better shot. After all, what lawmaker in Texas is going to say “no” to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones or Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban? A bill filed last Tuesday in Texas would give the state’s professional sports teams the opportunity to be licensed sports betting operators. Texas voters would still have to approve a sports wagering constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The idea is similar to one taking place in Arizona, where sports betting legislation is currently making its way through the legislature. The bill would permit the state’s professional teams to have ownership in sports betting operations at their stadiums or arenas. Sports betting consultant Sara Slane suggested the teams would earn a fee for the retail sports betting space at the venue that would be operated by licensed sports betting operators. Texas and Arizona are not alone. Stadiums and arenas in several markets are being considered as retail sports betting venues. In Washington, D.C., William Hill has betting windows at the Capital One Arena and will have a full-scale sportsbook in the venue by the spring and BetMGM is opening a sportsbook at Nationals Park this year. Last September, DraftKings and the Chicago Cubs announced plans to pursue a retail sportsbook at venerable Wrigley Field. Dan Snyder, the owner of the NFL’s Washington Football Team, wants a sportsbook at FedEx Field in Maryland. The team and FanDuel are operating online sports betting in Virginia. Imagine a full-scale retail sportsbook at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington or the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park. Apparently, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick doesn’t see the benefits. You might remember Patrick. The outspoken, ultra-conservative, Texas firebrand suggested last March that older Americans sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. He told KFYO Radio in Lubbock earlier this month that sports betting wouldn’t generate the revenue proponents promise. “The teams and casinos trying to push sports betting say they could generate $150 million a year by their numbers,” Patrick said. “That’s a lot of money. But it pays for half a day of our yearly budget.” Like most states, Texas is facing a large pandemic-related budget shortfall that the governor estimated at around $4.6 billion. A Texas-based economic research firm said this week the recent devastating winter storm could cost the state between $195 billion to $295 billion, which includes lost income and a long-term reduction in economic output after factories and businesses were forced to close. Charlotte Jones, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, speaks to attendees of the AGS Game On Summit at the team’s training center in 2019/CDC Gaming Photo by Howard Stutz So don’t tell Charlotte Jones, daughter of Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer, that sports betting wouldn’t help fix at least some of the state’s troubles. She told the Dallas Morning News, through a statement released by the Sports Betting Alliance, that unregulated sports betting has long been happening in Texas. “Legalized sports betting would regulate the industry and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue for the state, which will help fund critical programs without raising taxes,” she said. Texas has 13 professional sports franchises, high-profile college teams, and an estimated population of 29.8 million, second only in the U.S. to California. Neither state, along with number three in population Florida, offers legal sports betting. A push toward legal sports betting is taking place in all three states. Professional sports leagues once fiercely fought against the legalization of sports betting, spending millions of dollars in legal costs. After the May 2018 Supreme Court ruling, teams in all sports quickly signed up sports betting operators as “official partners” for marketing purposes. An increasing number of Hall of Fame former players are now sports betting “brand ambassadors,” hired by sportsbook operators. Remember when then-baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned Mikey Mantle and Willie Mays from the game in 1979 for serving as greeters at two Atlantic City casinos? They were reinstated six years later by then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth. We’re in a whole new era. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.