The state of Texas is one of the least gambling friendly states in the entire United States. Despite being the second most populated state in the country and having plenty of interested bettors, physical locations to place bets are virtually non-existent throughout the large state.
Bettors that live close to the borders often visit neighboring states to fulfill their gambling needs. Those that are located inland often use internet gambling at offshore sportsbooks or casinos to place wagers and enjoy the opportunity to gamble. Texas residents are forced to look out of state to make the bets they want to make.
Gaming Laws in Texas
Texas has laws in place against virtually all forms of gambling, with the notable exception being horse racing and dog racing. Penal code 47.01 defines a “bet” as “an agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance”. Not included under this definition are contracts for insurance, prizes for contests that aren’t games of chance, or merchandise won at a carnival.
“Bookmaking” is defined as receiving or forwarding five or more bets in the period of 24 hours or receiving or forwarding bets totaling more than $1000 in the period of 24 hours. Bookmaking is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor. “Keeping a Gambling Place”, which is defined as a place in which the owner of an establishment accepts bets or allows bets to be placed, is also a Class A misdemeanor.
The Texas Racing Commission oversees parimutuel wagering in the form of horse and greyhound tracks in the state of Texas. Up to three Class 1 horse tracks are allowed in the state and there are currently two running in the Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie and the Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.
Sports Betting in Texas
Texas is well known for its passion about sports, especially football. The state regularly fills stadiums for football games at every level with high school and college football owning wide popularity throughout the state. But all of these football fans are left without many options when it comes to betting on football and other sports due to Texas’ laws against gambling in public.
While Texas laws don’t specifically state that online gambling is legal, they also make no mention of online gambling being illegal either. In fact, the Texas statutes under penal code 47.02 state that it is a defense to prosecution for placing a bet if “the actor engaged in gambling in a private place”.
The key here is that Texas law prohibits bookmaking and also frowns upon placing bets in public places. When betting online from your own personal device you are not engaging in any form of public gambling. Sportsbooks can not be run in the state of Texas, but offshore sportsbooks do not fall under Texas’ jurisdiction and no resident of Texas has ever been punished or charged for using an offshore sportsbook to place wagers on sports and other events.
Poker and Casino in Texas
One would think that the birthplace of the world’s most popular poker game, “Texas Hold’em”, would be supportive of the game of poker. Unfortunately for poker players, this is not the case. While players can legally play in events that are not for real money such as charity events or local bar games, there are no poker rooms to play for real money in the state of Texas.
Poker players in Texas often play in online poker rooms. Once again, Texas law doesn’t specifically condone or prohibit online poker, but penal code 47.02 states another defense to prosecution as “except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing and the chances of winning were the same for all parties”. This fits a private and fair game such as poker, and no Texas resident has to date been charged for playing poker in an offshore poker room.
Texas has exactly one tribal casino, and that is the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, Texas. Located near the border to Mexico in the Southwest corner of the state, this casino isn’t a viable option for most of the state’s residents, but does offer standard casino gaming to those willing to make the trip.
Other Gaming Options in Texas
Horse racing and dog racing are both legal in Texas, although open tracks are few and far between. The popularity of live racing in Texas is falling due to the state’s inability to attract top horses. This is in part due to the fact that tracks in nearby states offer casino options at their race tracks to help build purses which Texas does not.
Scratch-off tickets, in house drawings, and interstate lottery are all available in Texas and are overseen by the Texas Lottery Commission. Texas voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow lottery sales in 1991.