Rick Perry and Jerry Jones Lend Rare Republican Support to Legal Sports Betting in Texas

If former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones get their way, Texans will be able to bet legally on games played at AT&T Stadium.
If former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones get their way, Texans will be able to bet legally on games played at AT&T Stadium. ajroder, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
A surprising voice has entered the debate surrounding legal sports gambling in Texas. Former Gov. Rick Perry released a video on behalf of the Sports Betting Alliance in which he lists what he says are the benefits of mobile sports gambling.

“Texas is built on the core principle of individual freedom,” says Perry, who served as governor 2000–2015. “And we pride ourselves on being an economic powerhouse in the nation. Legalizing mobile sports betting will finally allow the state to protect consumers from illegal offshore betting sites while keeping the money generated from betting in Texas to benefit Texans.”

Following the 2018 decision by the Supreme Court to lift the federal ban on sports betting, Fantasy Football platforms such as DraftKings have led the way, along with some notable casinos, in turning mobile sports betting into a commercial force. In the video Perry picked at the low-hanging fruit that is how sports betting is now legal in a majority of states in some form.

Since making sports gambling legal in 2020, Louisiana has continued to set new records for state sports gambling revenue.

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Perry’s monologue rolled out the way a conservative politics bingo card might read. His talk of liberty while imploring Texans to not fall farther behind neighboring states hits close to home for a lot of conservative voters and lawmakers.

There’s a reason he’s an attention-grabbing name for the Sports Betting Alliance. Republicans have long steered clear of serious consideration of legal casinos and sports gambling in Texas. But Perry’s not the only big name with Republican ties to take part in this movement.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a noted supporter of Republican officials including former President Donald Trump, made sizable contributions to the 2022 re-election campaigns of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton. In 2021 he was instrumental in forming the Sports Betting Alliance that Perry is now part of, along with other pro sports teams owners including Mark Cuban.

According to Perry’s video, 11 professional sports franchises in Texas, including the Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers and FC Dallas, are on board with allowing Texans to bet on games from their phones. Betting platforms including DraftKings, FanDuel and Bet MGM have also lent their weight to the cause.

Even with a state government controlled by Republicans, Texas has waded into gambling waters over the past 40 years. Horse racing became legal in 1986, clearing the way for major attractions such as Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, and the state lottery began in 1992.

Texas is surrounded by legal casinos in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, and sports betting is possible in New Mexico and Louisiana. Since making sports gambling legal in 2020, Louisiana has continued to set new records for state sports gambling revenue, recording $32.3 million in gross revenue in September alone.

Colorado also legalized mobile sports betting in 2020. Although there were some complaints about the high number of sports gambling commercials early on, the state is now collecting a record amount of taxes, with nearly $3 million being added to the state coffers in September.

Democratic state Sen. Carolyn Alvarado has pre-filed SJR 17, proposing a constitutional amendment that would create the Texas Gaming Commission to authorize and regulate casinos and sports betting. The filing maintains that legalized casino and sports gambling in Texas will “foster economic development and job growth and to provide tax relief and funding for education and public safety.”

The push with Perry is the latest effort from the Cowboys-backed alliance. An attempt to have the state legislature give it serious consideration in 2021 was unsuccessful. In keeping with his conservative Christian base, Patrick stated in 2021 his unequivocal opposition to expanding the state’s slate of legal gambling options.

In an email to the Observer, Alvarado shares many of the sentiments expressed by the former governor regarding gambling’s possible future in Texas.

“It's long past time that we let voters decide whether Texas should legalize gaming,” the email states. “Texas loses billions of dollars every year to our neighboring states. Legalizing casino gaming would not only bring this revenue back into our state, but it will also create tens of thousands of permanent jobs in Texas and potentially hundreds of thousands of immediate construction jobs. For these reasons, I am hopeful that SJR 17 will pass in the 88th Legislative Session.”
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Kelly Dearmore

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