Former Governor Rick Perry supports legalizing sports betting in Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A major player in Texas politics Thursday expressed his support for legalizing sports betting as policymakers are already drafting related legislation before returning to the Austin Capitol in January.

Former Republican Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday that he will join the Texas Sports Betting Alliance as a spokesperson, pushing for the Lone Star State to join 35 other states that have already legalized mobile sports betting.

“Legalizing mobile sports betting in Texas would mean implementing smart and efficient oversight to preserve the integrity of sporting events, allow Texans to safely participate in mobile sports betting, and fight illegal gambling,” Perry said in a press release. “Given that Texans are already participating in mobile sports betting, legalization would be a win-win for all involved.”

Both online sports betting and casino gambling are illegal in Texas, with the exception of three casinos that operate legally on Native American territory in the Lone Star State due to federal law. Despite casino lobby groups pouring millions of dollars into politicians’ pockets in recent years, state lawmakers failed to move forward with legalization during the 2021 legislative session.

Supporters hope Perry’s endorsement helps push the needle further.

“We have great momentum going into this session, just based on the work we were doing before Governor Perry even joined our team,” said Cara Gustafason, spokeswoman for the Texas Sports Betting Alliance.

Gustafason said Texans are already placing an estimated $8.7 billion in illegal bets through offshore betting websites. If legalized, the alliance estimates that Texas would generate more than $556 million over the two-year period.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has previously said it’s not enough money to consider legalizing online sports betting, but advocates say consumers will be harmed until the state regulates it.

“These offshore betting sites — there are no safeguards for your private and financial information. You are putting all of your information out there and risk getting stolen.

Opponents of gambling legislation have expressed concern about gambling addictions and the social consequences of gambling. At the start of the election campaign, Governor Greg Abbott expressed his willingness to at least legalize casinos, but with limitations.

“We don’t want slot machines in every corner store, we don’t want Texans to lose the money they need for day-to-day expenses, and we don’t want any kind of crime that could be associated with gambling,” Renae Eze, the publicist by Abbott, he told the Houston Chronicle. “But if there’s a way to create a very professional entertainment option for Texans, Governor Abbott would take a look at it.”

State Senator Carol Alvarado D-Houston said she is confident her legislation has crossed the line this legislative session, especially after it garnered more bipartisan support. The senator has already introduced a resolution this week that would allow casino gambling in Texas. If her constitutional amendment passes and is approved by voters, and she Alvarado says she will help “promote economic development and job growth” and establish the Texas Gaming Commission.

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