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A Fort Worth legislator says it's 'high time' to legalize sports betting in Texas

A Fort Worth representative has filed a bill to legalize sports betting and expand casino gaming.

FORT WORTH, Texas — A Fort Worth legislator is taking a run at legalizing sports betting in Texas.

Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, filed a bill Friday that proposes a Texas constitutional amendment "to foster economic development and job growth" by expanding casino gaming and authorizing legal sports betting.

Geren filed the bill Friday morning. If passed, it would give Texas voters the option to vote on the issue this November.

Geren's would give voters the choice to decide on a few elements related to gaming, including sports betting and expanding casino gaming to a limited number of "destination resorts."

The casino resorts would be limited to two in North Texas, two in the Houston area, one in the San Antonio area, one in Corpus Christi and one in the McAllen area.

The legislation would also form a "Texas Gaming Association" of five governor-appointed members to create and enforce regulations on sports betting and casino gaming.

The proposed bill would generate revenue for the state by taxing casino gaming and sports betting revenue.

Texas is one of 14 states in the U.S. that has not legalized sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association. Thirty-three states, plus Washington, D.C., have legal betting, and three others have passed legislation but aren't yet operating.

"Polling over the last year makes it clear that more than 85% of Texans want the right to vote on this issue, Republicans and Democrats alike," Geren said in a news release. "It is high time that the legislature listens to the voters and allow them to decide this issue. I, for one, am not in the business of denying the voters of Texas their voice when their preference is so clear."

Geren said Texas "is losing billions to neighboring states" that allow more casino gaming.

"I believe it's time we allow Texans to vote on bringing that money and the benefits back to Texas," Geren said. "I look forward to making the case and working with my colleagues in the House to get this legislation passed this session."

It's not clear how much support Geren has on the issue, though it's the latest push to legalize sports betting in Texas.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently became a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance, which is a lobby group of sports franchises -- including the Cowboys, Stars, Rangers and Mavericks -- and sportsbooks pushing to legalize the industry in Texas.

"Texas is built on the core principle of individual freedom," Perry said. "And we pride ourselves on being an economic powerhouse in the nation. Legalizing mobile sports betting in Texas 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."

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