Texas Gambling Laws


Posted: March 23, 2016

Updated: June 10, 2020

Texas gambling laws are strict in comparison to other US gambling laws. Our overview will clarify the situation of gambling in Texas and highlight the opportunities of Texan gamblers.

Texas Gambling Laws

Texas gambling laws allow for lotteries, pari-mutuel wagering, charitable gambling and one casino on Native American land. This list might appear long, but compared to other US gambling laws Texas’ are rather prohibiting. Thankfully, legislators prepared numerous helpful guides to explain the state of gambling in Texas.

Defined by Texas gambling laws, gambling means “a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest.” Furthermore, a person commits an offense of gambling if he “plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.” An offense under these laws is a Class C misdemeanor, which might result in a fine of not more than $500. Even from these small excerpts it’s pretty evident that almost all forms of casino-style gambling in Texas are outlawed.

Currently, there’s only one tribal casino in Texas, Lucky Eagle Casino, run by the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. Before 2002, there were three such establishments, but they were shut down after a court order in a heavily publicized case. The two tribal casinos lost because the Restoration Act strictly prohibits Class 3 gambling. Lucky Eagle Casino’s games were proven as Class 2 gaming, therefore it survived all legal attacks.

Pari-mutuel betting on horse and greyhound races is the only legal form of sports betting in Texas. Unlike in some other states, the racetracks cannot offer slot games, so they don’t fall under the category of racinos. Poker can be found at the Lucky Eagle Casino, but it’s also allowed at home, if played without risking anything of value. Charity games are legal, but they are strictly controlled by the Texas Lottery Commission.

The strict Texas gambling laws have resulted in a blooming underground gambling market in the state. US gambling news are constantly reporting about illegal casino rooms in Texas, including as prominent sources as The New York Times. Furthermore, there’s a controversy around gaming machines, called “eight-liners,” as they’re not supposed to offer cash payouts. Casino cruises are also popular among gambling Texans, sailing to international waters to bypass Texas gambling laws.

Online Gambling in Texas

Online gambling is illegal in Texas, and this fact is backed by numerous laws and official opinions. First of all, Texas gambling laws prohibit all kinds of bets on games of chance. Second, they prohibit placing bets on any device. “Putting the [Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act] aside, Texas law still prohibits online wagering for a variety of reasons,” clarifies the Attorney General’s official statement. Therefore, we might conclude that just like most forms of land-based gaming, online gambling in Texas is strictly prohibited.

Lotteries in Texas

The Texas Lottery was approved in 1991 and it started in 1992. It offers scratchcards and draw games, including inter-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. The Texas Lottery has generated more than USD 24 billion in revenues. The money is used for good causes, such as education, veterans’ services and other programs. It’s important to note that no other than the state lottery is legal in Texas.

Daily Fantasy Sports in Texas

In 2016, Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has released an official opinion on daily fantasy sports in Texas. “Simply put, it is prohibited gambling in Texas if you bet on the performance of a participant in a sporting event and the house takes a cut,” he said. Sites like DraftKings and FanDuel make money on player’s bets, therefore they violate Texas gambling laws. The Attorney General’s opinion does not ban these sites, however, it provides guidance for Texas lawmakers.

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