Gambling proposals gain traction in the Texas Legislature

In Texas, you can play the lottery and win at bingo. But betting on sports and playing your luck in a casino; that’s not legal. 

The Lone Star State has been tough on gambling for decades. For example, the state penal code of 1879 even outlawed betting on the outcome of an election. Violating that law carried a fine of up to $1,000. 

SJR17 could change that by allowing a public vote on expanding gambling in Texas. It was filed by state Sen. Carol Alvarado.

"My intent is to create jobs, give a boost of energy to our economy here, and to diversify our economy because we rely so heavily on oil and gas," said Alvarado.

The proposal by the Houston democrat includes creating a gaming commission.

"I think if we had it regulated and it was authorized and legal, that it would put a lot of this illegal stuff out of business," said Alvarado.

The odds of changing the law have improved. House Speaker Dade Phelan, last week, said he is open to the idea of resort-style casinos in Texas.

The Texas Destination Resort Alliance, posted on social media about the speaker’s comment. Alvarado already has possible locations selected.

"We would have a casino in Houston, one in Dallas, one in Austin, and one in San Antonio. So it's very specific. This is not, you know, people putting in a blackjack table or slot machine in their bar. This is very specific," said Alvarado.

The lobbying effort on Alvarado’s resolution is expected to ramp up after a House companion bill is filed later this month. The online betting legislation, I’m told, is still being drafted. State lawmakers will have two different opportunities to talk about gambling. There is another group pushing for online betting.

"You know, MLB has embraced it. A lot of the other leagues have embraced it," said Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

Crane was at the capitol Wednesday where his team was recognized for the World Series win. Another team-up for Crane, in a way, was also acknowledged by state Senator John Whitmire.

"But I'd be willing to bet if we had sports betting. Perhaps. That if you cross, travel across America. Our friends would comment about the Houston Astros, probably the name I.D. The brand name identifies with the great city of Houston, proudly competing with some of our fine institutions," said the Houston Democrat.

Crane is part of the Sports Betting Alliance. That group is trying to legalize online sports betting. The group is still drafting its proposed legislation. Former governor Rick Perry was hired as spokesperson and they’ve launched a campaign saying it’s time to cash in.

"I think, you know, we're at a disadvantage in Texas because we don't have it and the other states do," said Crane.

Both measures face a tough challenge in the Texas senate with Lt Governor Dan Patrick. Its why, for now, the two plans remain separate debates.