Texas is oh-so-close to pulling pro sports out of the dark ages

Sports betting in Texas could be just around the corner. Photo by Getty Images, Composite by Brandon Strange.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, now a spokesperson for parties pushing for legalized sports betting in Texas, told a Channel 11 reporter:

“I'm sure the first time a Christian walked into the Coliseum in Rome, somebody bet on the outcome.”

I'm all in for legalized gambling in Texas, but I challenge Perry's historical accuracy. I visited Rome a couple of years ago and took the Coliseum tour. It's true that back in the day, Christians were fed to the lions (and other beasts) in the Coliseum, but there wasn't a betting window for fans to wager on the outcome. The lions were undefeated in ancient Rome. They had a better winning percentage than the Harlem Globetrotters. In fact, the event wasn't over until the lions won each time.

But I get what Perry is saying and I agree with him. It's whackadoodle that Texas doesn't have legalized sports betting. It's perfectly permitted all around us. Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee are within a day's drive. Why must we continue to make Mattress Mack drive all the way to Louisiana to bet his millions? I wonder, did Mack deduct 62 cents per mile when he went to collect his $75 million on the Astros winning the World Series? Every penny counts.

Bottom line: despite sports betting being illegal in Texas, anybody with minimal computer savvy can get on their laptop or smartphone and bet on sports. It's no wonder that the big online sportsbooks, like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, advertise in Texas where their product technically is illegal.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a federal ban on sports betting four years ago and left it for states to decide, 35 states have approved some form of sports gambling. Texas is not one of them.

However, something's a-brewing in the Lone Star State. On Monday, two bills were presented in the Texas Legislature, currently in session in Austin, that may lead to legalized sports gambling here. Just may. It's still a longshot, but gamblers know, longshots sometimes win. Past efforts have failed, but this year looks like the best odds ever for legalized gambling in Texas.

That's because one of the bills for legalized sports gambling was presented Monday by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, who knows a winner when she represents one. That's where Blue Bell ice cream is made, and even “cows think Brenham's Heaven.” Blue Bell dominates the ice cream market in Texas and one flavor, Homemade Vanilla, accounts for 60-percent of its sales. Note for trivia buffs: Blue Bell's next most popular flavors are Dutch Chocolate and Cookies 'n Cream.

More important, Kolkhorst is a Republican and political ally of Gov. Greg Abbott, who after years of opposing legalized sports gambling appears to have cracked open the door this time.

Kolkhorst is a force in Austin. She chairs the senate's Health and Human Services committee. Probably equally significant, she is a former collegiate athlete. She was a member of the golf team at Texas Christian University. Introducing her bill Monday she said, “I respect the purity of sports and feel (her bill) will promote integrity through transparent licensing, permitting and reporting requirements.”

Legalized sports gambling also would promote many, many millions of dollars in revenue for Texas. The state would take 10-percent off the top of the action. If a proposed bill passes through the Texas Legislature, sports betting could be on the ballot in November, where it would be expected to pass by a wide margin.

Supporting legalized sports gambling in Texas: the Dallas Cowboys, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Astros, Houston Texans and Professional Golf Association.

The main opposition to legalized sports gambling in Texas continues to be Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. He has repeatedly shot down any attempt to bring gambling to Texas. However, that's the thing about gambling, you never know the result until it's over.

As Rocky Balboa sort of said after beating Ivan Drago, “if Gov. Abbott can change, and you can change, everybody can change, even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.”

Here’s hoping, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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