A new survey from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found widespread public support for legislation that would dramatically upend Texas’ longstanding prohibition against most forms of gambling.
The support crosses demographic and partisan lines and includes strong backing from people who identify as born-again Christians.
“Texas has historically had strict laws regulating most forms of gaming, even as neighboring states have expanded opportunities for casino gambling,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director and researcher at the Hobby School. “Opponents have historically had powerful allies in the Legislature, but we found the public appears ready to back major changes in how Texas regulates gambling.”
Texas Senate Joint Resolution 17 (SJR 17), if passed by the Legislature, would require approval by a majority of voters in a November constitutional referendum. It would allow one casino resort in each of the state’s four major metro areas – Houston, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio – along with limited casino gambling at horse and greyhound race tracks and legalized sports betting. It also would allow the state’s three recognized tribal communities to operate slot machines or casino gambling.
The survey found three out of four (75%) Texans support the legislation, including 41% who said they strongly support the bill. Just 13% strongly oppose the change.
In addition, 69% back stand-alone legislation to legalize both in-person and online sports betting; 31% oppose it.
Proponents say the resulting tax revenue would be used to provide tax relief, as well as funding for education and public safety.
Mark P. Jones, senior research fellow at the Hobby School and political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the broad support is striking.
“It’s not just that a majority of Texans support expanded gambling,” he said. “We found a majority of people in urban, suburban and rural areas support it, and that cuts across racial, ethnic, partisan, religious, and generational lines.”
Even 69% of born-again Christians, long the backbone of opposition to legalized gambling, said they support the legislation. That rose to 78% among people who do not identify as born-again Christians.
Among the survey’s additional findings on SJR 17:
- 83% of Black, 77% of Latino and 73% of white Texans support the bill.
- 78% of men and 72% of women support passage.
- Partisan support ranges from 80% of Democrats to 74% of Independents and 72% of
- Support spans the state’s sprawling geography: 75% of urban Texans, 74% of rural Texans and 66% of suburban residents support passage.
Cross said researchers did find some statistically significant differences among groups – Democrats were more likely to favor expanded gambling than Republicans, for example, and older Texans were slightly less likely to support it than younger people – but the widespread support across subgroups outweighed any small differences.
“We often talk about the issues that divide us as Texans, but proposals to expand legalized gambling in the state appear to be an example of the opposite,” Cross said. “This shows us that there is room for common ground.”
The full report is available on the Hobby School website. Future reports will examine support for school choice and for legislation regulating marijuana, abortion, firearms, elections, immigration and energy.
The online survey asking 1,200 Texans ages 18 and older about legislation to be considered during the 2023 legislative session was conducted between Jan. 9 and Jan. 19 in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/-2.8%.
- By Jeannie Kever