LET IT RIDE

Here's how Texas sports fans can cash in regardless of the outcome

Poll after poll show that Texans favor legalized sports gambling. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images.

A bill was proposed this week in the Texas Legislature that, if approved, would put legalized sports gambling on the ballot in November and potentially open for business on Jan. 1, 2022.

House Bill 2070: "The Constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to legalize wagering in the state."

Twenty-five states now offer online or in-person gambling on sports events. It's a multi-billion dollar industry that allows states to add revenue without increasing taxes. Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and Virginia allow sports betting for the first time this year. Last November, voters in Louisiana overwhelmingly approved sports gambling and now their state legislators are deciding how to open the betting windows.

The proposed gambling bill in Austin would allow professional teams and horse tracks to operate sports books in their venues. There currently are 13 major league pro teams in Texas, across the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, NWSL and WNBA. (We'll leave the trivia question: can you name them all for another day.) Three Class 1 horse racing tracks operate in Texas: Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Retama Park in Selma, and Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.

Poll after poll show that Texans favor legalized sports gambling. Pro teams support legalized sports gambling. Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank wheeler-dealer Mark Cuban is invested in sports gambling. The state would benefit by regulating – and taxing – sports gambling to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for education and other money-strapped programs.

So it's just common sense that House Bill 2070 is a solid favorite to win passage in the Texas Legislature, right?

I wouldn't bet on it. In order to pass, the bill would have to win two-thirds majority in both the Texas House of Representative (100 of 150 votes) and Texas Senate, (21 of 31 votes). There's where the problem lies, particularly in the Senate, where Republicans hold an 18-13 majority.

If the longshot comes in, and the Legislature approves sports gambling, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would not have the power to veto it. However, leading the death knell for legalized sports gambling in Texas is Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

"I've never been in favor of it. We are nowhere close to having the votes for it. I don't spend much time on it because the members are just against it," Patrick said on a radio show in Lubbock. "It's not even an issue that's going to see the light of day this session."

These are our public servants. Former Gov. Rick Perry says that Texans would rather endure days of no electricity in freezing temperatures than join a national power grid that keeps Minnesotans toasty on 30-below winter nights. Sen. Ted Cruz abandons shivering, flooded-out Texans for a vacation in Cancun, lies about it, throws his children under the bus, and then calls people who exposed his cowardly scheme "a-holes." Dan Patrick is dead set on killing sports gambling in Texas. Our representatives aren't so good at representing us.

The thing is, Texas already has legalized sports gambling. OK, it might not officially be on the up and up, but anybody can jump online and find sports gambling sites based in Canada or the Caribbean or Europe and bet on everything from will the Rockets cover Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers (they didn't) what color Gatorade will be poured on the winning Super Bowl coach (Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians was doused in blue Gatorade), to Best TV comedy at the Golden Globes this Sunday (I'm all in on Schitt's Creek).

Sports betting is rampant in Texas. Local bookies are brazen, they have their own wide-open websites. I used to patronize a betting site called Sportsinteraction. I had no idea where it was based until I got a payout from the Wells Fargo bank in Dublin, Ireland. Texans do everything regarding sports gambling except pay taxes to Texas. Who's the loser in that?

Meanwhile the safest bet in sports gambling seems to be investing in publicly traded sports betting companies. Penn National Gaming stock is up 260 percent from last year, and DraftKings, which is partnered with ESPN, saw its stock price reach a record high this month.

You want a hot betting tip: buy stock in a gambling company and, as DraftKings spokesperson Jessie Coffield says, "make it rain."

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