Mac Engel

Will Texas legalize sports gambling? Don't bet on it. Here's why

Supreme Court lets states legalize sports betting in historic 6-3 decision

With a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that legalizing sports betting should be left up to each state.
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With a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that legalizing sports betting should be left up to each state.

Our fearless politicians in Austin have historically preferred selective integrity and convenient morality, and being able to legally bet the Cowboys minus-3.5 against the Eagles in Texas does not fit into the precious paradigm of clean livin'.

Don't expect that to change just yet, even though the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down the federal law that prohibits sports gambling. The NCAA and four major professional sports leagues sued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2012 after he signed legislation allowing sports betting in his state. The state had lost all of the lower court rulings.

This is the most notable accomplishment for Christie since he was run over by Donald Trump.

Legal sports gambling is now no longer reserved just for Nevada. While it's a bad bet to think it's coming to Texas soon, saying no to this kind of cash will require the strength of 10,000 Jerry Joneses. This is the easiest money for Texas since oil.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would/will shoot down such a proposed measure like they are on a duck hunt. To allow gaming in Texas would require changes to state law and buck our conventional conservative values.

The same values that say we Texans allow betting on horses, bingo, raffles at pro games or the random selection of numbers in the lottery, but nothing else.

Sports are on a slow road to becoming horse racing: bettors watching events that take place in smaller half-filled venues where the real value is not the in-game event but the TV signal.

Texas leadership fighting legalized sports betting is delaying the inevitable. Like nearly every other state, our education system needs money, and whoever succeeds the likes of Abbott and Patrick will have to find the money to pay for teachers, books, supplies and buildings.

"Today is a monumental day for gaming in America," American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman said in a conference call with reporters. "The $150 billion-a-year illegal sports betting industry is on the ropes, and the court's decision is a victory for the millions of Americans who seek to bet sports in a safe and regulated manner."

Texas always fights gambling and normally is overrun by a Santa Anna-like charge armed not with guns but with satchels of money.

We had horse track betting in the 1930s until it was killed later in the decade. Horse track betting was not brought back to Texas until the late '80s.

The lottery was not approved until 1991.

By these points, countless other states had approved such taxable vices, all in the name of collecting revenue for budget shortfalls.

Now, as more and more states passed laws allowing for casinos, the losses mounted for Texas: A study in 2013 found Texans spent $2.96 billion gambling in casinos in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

As a result, our local horse tracks are puny and sad. Lone Star Park is owned by the Chickasaw Nation, with the express reason to have a foothold in Texas should the state ever expand its gaming laws.

Meanwhile, sports continues its stronger embrace with gambling.

The NHL put a team in Las Vegas. The NFL's Raiders of Oakland are moving to their new home just off the The Strip in 2020. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is a total proponent of allowing gambling on NBA games. The owner of the NBA's Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, owns the Golden Nugget casino.

All leagues have embraced fantasy sports and the flimsy semantics that it's not gambling.

Even TCU has a sponsorship with Winstar, although it makes the laughable distinction between the resort/golf course and the casino.

"I will be re-introducing a bill to allow fantasy sports, because that's not gambling," said Texas state Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) in a phone interview. "Do I think there will be a separate bill for sports gambling? No. I don't think that will pass."

The Texas Legislature meets again in 2019. Expect a few bold political leaders to create a headline or two and lobby to allow sports gambling to be permitted in our state. They won't win just yet.

Their successors will.

Maybe not casino gambling just yet, but history says Texas will fight expanding gaming until it needs the money. We're a strong state with jobs, but in due time, we're going to need the cash.

Putting cash on Dallas to cover 3.5 points against Philly is a dumb play, but one day we will be allowed to legally lose our money in Texas betting on the Cowboys.

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