Dan Patrick reminds everyone who’s in charge

In case you forgot.

Online sports betting isn’t coming to Texas any time soon, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Saturday.

The state House narrowly advanced a bill this week that would allow Texans to vote on legalizing the practice, a milestone for the gambling industry’s push to expand in the Lone Star State. Supporters had already expected an uphill climb in the Senate, but Patrick put an end to any remaining speculation on Twitter.

“I’ve said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP,” Patrick tweeted. “I polled members this week. Nothing changed. The Senate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB 1942 won’t be referred.”

Still, gambling advocates say the bill’s passage in the House — by a vote of 101 to 42 — shows the potential to advance the legislation in future sessions.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano and the author of the legislation, has argued that Texans already have easy access to illegal forms of online betting, where they spend millions of untaxed dollars every year. He said legalizing the practice would “allow these people to come out of the shadows” and put them under a “regulatory framework that will protect Texans who are already doing this now.”

This is the reason I have always been dismissive of all the breathless pre-session articles about how the gambling industry is gearing up and hiring millions of lobbyists and citing polls that show public support for gambling and economic studies that say it will literally rain honey on us all if we authorize casinos and sports books. There’s one person you have to convince in the state, and that’s Dan Patrick. Until he is no longer in charge, gambling isn’t going anywhere. Maybe – I know, this is crazy talk, but stay with me – the gambling interests should focus a bit more on that in the next election.

(Yes, I know, Patrick always cites the level of support in the Senate, and I’m sure he’s right about that. But then, the Republican Senate caucus is an army of his clones, so there’s a chicken-and-egg question there. If Patrick changed his mind, would his minions follow? It’s an interesting question, one we’ll almost certainly never get an answer to. That said, if Mike Collier were presiding over the Senate this session, it wouldn’t surprise me if there remained some entrenched opposition among the mini-Patricks. But at least then we’d have some clarity, and the lobbyists could turn their attention to those individual Senators.)

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