Texas House committee considers sports betting in the state

Texas House members moved a step closer to a floor debate on expanding gambling in Texas. 

HB 1942, which would legalize online sports betting, was officially reported to the House Calendars' Committee. An up or down vote on the measure, filed by republican Jeff Leach, (R) Plano, is no longer a long shot.

"The Bill is in a good spot. We're building support every single day from legislators here and from Texans across the state. I think we're going to be able to get it up, get it across the finish line in the House," said Rep. Leach.

The odds of winning in the Senate currently remain a long shot. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has declared any gambling bill from the House as D-O-A in the Senate, but Leach is not ready to fold.

"I don't. My job is to pass a bill through the House and to get it over to the Senate. I trust my Senate, my Senate author over there, Lois Kolkhorst, who's well respected, very smart. We're working very hard on this," said Leach.

There is another big reason for Leach to be optimistic.

"It's definitely a bargaining chip," said political analyst Brian Smith with St. Edward’s University.

Patrick, according to Smith, could offer up an online gambling vote in the Senate as a deal to get the House to reconsider positions on school vouchers and property tax cuts.

"And if a deal comes in, that's good, you might be willing to make a deal," said Smith.

A signal may have been sent April 17 when the House Speaker referred SB 8, the Senate's school voucher Bill, to the House Public Education Committee. This is the time of year when a lot of the debating doesn't happen on either chamber floor. 

This, Smith agreed, is the backroom deal making time.

"Right. This is when the legislature has an agenda in public, but is also doing a lot of private negotiating," said Smith.

The political poker match could play out the way that the lottery debate played out several years ago.

"This could be dead until it wasn't dead, because a lot of times the power players are going to look, and they're going to ask a simple question, what's in it for me? And if the answer is nothing, then it's dead. But if a deal can be made where the important players say, what's in it for me, and an answer is given that makes them happy, then it'll move along. In the legislative process. For the lottery, it was public school funding," said Smith.

Any maneuvering will certainly involve the state budget. That's because earlier this month, House members added anti-voucher language to their version of the budget.