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Will Jerry Jones deliver sports betting in Texas?

Mike Florio

Everything is bigger in Texas. Except for sports betting, which remains nonexistent.

Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News takes a look at the status of efforts to legalize sports wagering in Texas. Powerful forces are aligned against it, but one very powerful owner could be the guy to push the needle in the other direction: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The Texas Republican party opposes sports wagering. It’s a natural position for conservative politicians, partially fueled in Texas by Native American casino groups from Oklahoma. Groups that prefer to lure Texans across the border to legally do that which they can’t legally do at home.

Via Sherrington, the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation have donated more than $5 million combined to Texas officeholders and candidates since 2006. Also, Tilman Fertitta, a Houstonian who owns the Golden Nugget Casinos, has donated more than $500,000 to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

The identification of Jones as a Texan who could sell sports betting is speculative, but it makes sense. And Sherrington may be onto something; Jones, who rarely meets a story on which he declines to comment, declined to comment on this one.

When it comes to legalizing sports betting, the NFL currently faces uphill climbs in some of the states with the most population and multiple NFL franchises. It won’t be easy to get it done in Florida (which has three teams), California (which has four but soon will have only three), and Texas (which has two).

Here’s the deeper question: As teams in states with legalized gambling generate more revenue, revenue that will be lost in states that don’t have legalized gambling, will that become a factor in franchise relocations? Whether it makes places like San Diego or San Antonio less attractive or smaller markets with current teams less viable when it comes to building (or not building) new stadiums, money to be made, or not made, via sports betting becomes one of the various factors to consider when making decisions that ultimately are about business, even if the NFL and its teams want fans not to look at it that way.