Texas has long been a national model of economic growth by promoting policies to encourage economic prosperity. What’s more, our job creation in the private sector and population growth have generated headlines around the nation. However, we have some turbulence ahead.

After a challenging year marked by the coronavirus pandemic that has been devastating to our state economy, the Texas Legislature is currently drafting the next two-year state budget and we have some serious ground to make up. And although the state’s economic outlook is better than first predicted earlier in the pandemic, we still have many challenges that need to be addressed. 

As we look for new sources of revenue to support vital state programs without raising taxes, we should look no further than the proposed constitutional amendment – HJR 97/HB 2070 and SJR 39/SB 736 – that we introduced to give the people of Texas a voice in legalizing sports betting in Texas. Texans want to make their own decisions about whether to participate in sports betting. 

If this proposal is passed, our voters will be given the opportunity this November to determine for themselves if they want to authorize, regulate, license and tax sports betting activity and bring us in line with more than two dozen other states. Texans are already placing illegal bets on sports to the tune of $5 billion per year – in many cases offshore sports books that offer no protections against bad actors and leave Texans with no recourse. In the current unregulated environment there are no protections for the most vulnerable in our state.

A legal, regulated sports betting market will help deter unlawful sports betting in and provide strict state oversight over sports betting operators while generating new revenue for state coffers. Creating a legal, regulated structure for sports betting has bipartisan support and is good for consumers and good for Texas. The proceeds from licensed sports betting operators will be taxed and we could see as much as $180 million in new revenue for the next two-year budget cycle and as the market grows could see as much as $1 billion over the next decade. The tax revenue from legalizing sports betting could go toward state programs in health care, education, property tax reform or even updating our power grid. This revenue will have a real benefit to Texas families. 

Texans love their sports. With nearly a dozen major league teams, we have one of the largest sports markets in the nation. With an effective regulatory structure, Texas could become one of the biggest sports betting markets in the nation virtually overnight. This would create jobs, generate state revenue and stimulate the Texas economy. 

With our rich history, Texans are all about freedom of choice. Our voters should be given the right to decide for themselves if they want to engage in legal sports wagering. This proposal provides a legal, regulated structure with strict oversight over sports betting operators to protect Texans while preserving the integrity of our sporting events. The current status quo is unacceptable.

It is only right that we give Texans a voice on this important issue.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned jointly by state Rep. Dan Huberty, a Republican from Houston, and state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen. The column appears in the Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the authors.

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