Texas Gambling Sites - A Guide to Gambling In Texas
With 27.5 million residents, Texas is America's second most-populous state. This means that the Lone Star State could make a fortune through gambling taxes.
But Texas doesn't take advantage of this opportunity because they have limited casino gaming and live poker.
Not surprisingly, Texas doesn't have legal internet gambling either.
But offshore gaming sites still target their large market.
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Online Gambling and Texas Law
Texas doesn't address internet gambling in their criminal code. Furthermore, they don't mention the words "computer," "internet," or "online."
But this doesn't mean that internet gambling is legal here. In fact, the state's broad laws make it illegal for offshore gaming sites to operate within their borders.
We'll cover this and other important aspects of the state's online gaming stance below.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Texas?
Let's begin with code 47.03 of the criminal code, which states that a person "commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly does any of the following acts:"
- Earns profits from a "gambling place."
- Earns profits from being "a custodian of anything of value bet or offered to be bet."
- "Sells chances" on any game, contest, or political nomination.
- Sets up and runs a lottery.
The first-time charge for any of these offenses is a Class A misdemeanor, which is a light punishment for illegal gambling operators.
Nevertheless, it's clear that Texas doesn't allow any form of gaming beyond what they've specifically approved. Internet gambling doesn't fall under this umbrella, therefore it's technically illegal in the state.
Why do Gambling Sites Operate in Texas?
As just discussed, offshore gaming sites are not considered legal in the Lone Star State, but they continue to operate here for three main reasons:
- 1 - Texas doesn't have a regulated iGaming market.
- 2 - Texas hasn't taken legal action against offshore sites.
- 3 - The Texas Constitution doesn't specifically make internet gambling illegal.
These three conditions are present in most states, which is why most of them are served by offshore operators.
Even Louisiana, South Dakota, and Washington - which explicitly outlaw online gambling - have problems with offshore sites.
This means that the threat of legal action is the biggest condition to whether internet gambling sites serve a state.
Texas has never pursued legal action against offshore sites, and the status quo is likely to continue for a while.
Will I be Arrested for Gambling Online in Texas?
It's possible, but there's almost no chance that you'll be arrested.
Code 47.02 states a gambling offense occurs if somebody:
- (1) "... makes 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."
- (2) "... makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate."
- (3) "... plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device."
Anybody who commits one of these offenses is subject to a Class C misdemeanor. Exceptions are made for those who engage in social gambling and / or are involved in a skill-based contest where everybody has the same chance.
Perhaps an argument can be made that online poker falls into this category because it's skill-based. But by and large, internet gambling is illegal in the Lone Star State.
Nevertheless, they haven't arrested anybody for playing online casino games or placing sports bets. This gives us confidence that you won't be arrested for the activity.
Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a 2011 opinion that the Wire Act - a federal ban on certain types of gambling - only applies to sports betting.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
This depends upon the specific site you're dealing with. But for the most part, offshore gambling sites are safe.
The risk comes when considering that offshore sites are based outside of the U.S. This means that they're neither licensed in America nor directly subject to U.S. laws.
The matter can be scarier given that a small percentage of nefarious operators have closed without repaying player deposits..
But here's the thing: most offshore operators realize the value in repeat business.
If they don't have good customer service or process cashouts in a timely manner, they'll receive less repeat players. Long story short, you can have confidence that most internet gambling sites will serve you well.
How Do I Pick the Best Gaming Sites?
To choose safe gaming sites, you should read reviews of any prospective site. The more reviews you read, the better you'll be able to make an informed deposit.
Another thing you should do is visit the site directly and look for certain aspects. Reviews are great, but it's even more effective if you do research yourself.
Here are some key points that you want to look for:
- Longevity and Reputation -
The longer a site is in business, the more likely it is that they properly serve players. And when you combine this with a good reputation (via reviews), you have a winning site.
- Game Variety -
Everybody loves a nice variety of games. This is why you want to visit a site and see if they have the games / sports lines you want.
- Banking Options -
If real money iGaming is your goal, then you need to make sure that there's a deposit option you can use.
- Customer Support -
This is a key point covered in reviews. You can also visit directly and live-chat with customer service to see how friendly and knowledgeable they are.
- Bonuses & Promotions -
It's always exciting to earn cash on the side of your play. Check out the welcome bonus and promotions at any site you're interested in.
- Bonus Terms & Conditions -
Click the terms and conditions underneath the welcome bonus to see what wagering requirements must be met. The industry standard for online casino bonuses is 40x rollover (or 20x bonus + deposit).
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Texas. Gambling Venues in Texas
Where to gamble in the state of Texas. The History of Gaming Laws in Texas
A brief history of Texas laws regarding gambling. Texas Gambling FAQ
Taking a look at questions you may have. The Furture of Gambling in Texas
What does the future of gambling look like in Texas?
More Gambling Laws in Texas
Texas only has two casinos spread throughout its vast 269,596 square miles. This includes the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino and Aransas Queen cruise ship.
The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle is located along the Mexican border and offers Class II gaming. Class II machines are similar to regular slot machines, except that results are determined by historic horse races or electronic bingo cards (instead of random number generators).
The Aransas Queen is a huge yacht that began sailing out of Corpus Christi in 2015. They're only allowed to offer gaming when in international waters.
It remains to be seen how successful the Aransas Queen will be. Texas has had multiple gambling cruises that have failed over the years.
This includes the Le Mistral, the original gambling cruise ship that set sail from Galveston in 1988; it went bankrupt in 1994.
Several other Texas gambling cruises have either gone bankrupt or moved to different states seeking more profitability.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Under the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act, Texas allows licensed charities to offer bingo and raffles. Unfortunately, this means that casino nights and Texas hold'em tournaments are out of the question.
Legalized in 1992, the Texas Lottery sells a wide range of instant and drawing games. Available games include: All or Nothing, Cash Five, Daily 4, Pick 3, Mega Millions, Powerball, Texas Triple Chance, and Texas Two Step.
The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino has a small poker room. Other than this, the only ways to play poker in Texas include offshore gaming sites and social games.
Texas is one of the few states that offers active horse and dog racing tracks. They currently have four tracks operating in the state.
Social Gambling: Legal
Code 47.02 of the Texas criminal code includes exemptions for social gaming. These include the following:
1 - "The actor engaged in gambling in a private place."
2 - "No person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings."
3 - "Except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing and the chances of winning were the same for all participants."
As long as the host isn't profiting from your social gambling function through a house edge, food, or drinks, the game should be fine. Also, make sure that no illegal firearms or drugs are on the premises.
Gambling Venues in Texas
As discussed before, Texas only has two casinos - the Aransas Queen cruise and Kickapoo Lucky Eagle.
Lucky Eagle is by far the largest of these casinos, sporting over 3,300 Class II gaming machines. But it's also in the remote Lucky Pass area on the Mexican border, making it difficult for many Texans to visit.
Aransas Queen has over 200 gaming machines and some table games. This mega yacht must reach international waters before gambling commences.
In addition to two casinos, Texas also offers Class II pull tab machines at parlors in the Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio areas.
These are electronic pull tab machines that look and play like slot machines. One stipulation to these games is that individual payouts can't be any larger than $5.
1. Aransas Queen Casino
2200 E Hwy 361
Aransas Pass, Texas 78336
2. Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel
794 Lucky Eagle Drive
Eagle Pass, TX 78852
History of Gambling in Texas
Dating back to when U.S. settlers arrived in Mexican Texas, the territory was filled with brothels, saloons, and gambling halls. This continued long after Texas became a state in 1845.
Professional gamblers like "Doc" Holliday and "Lottie Deno" Thompkins roamed the plains of Texas in the mid and late 1800s.
The Lone Star State finally began cracking down on vices in the early 1900s. Most gambling halls were banned and closed by 1917.
Texas didn't officially legalize any gambling activities until 1933, when they approved pari-mutuel betting. Just four years later, the state voted to shut down pari-mutuel wagering.
The see sawing continued in 1987, when Texas legalized pari-mutuel gambling for good.
The state also has a strange history with tribal casinos. With help from the federal government, they shut down the Tigua Tribe's Speaking Rock casino in 2002.
But the Kickapoo Casino has been in operation ever since 1996 because they offer Class II gaming. Governor George W. Bush questioned the validity of this casino, but the Kickapoo won a pre-emptive lawsuit against the state.
Texas also legalized casino cruise ships in 1988, but ships were originally forced to visit a foreign port of call (Mexican villages) before docking in Texas. This only lasted a year before Galveston officials got the port of call portion repealed.
Despite their limited gambling, Texas has had activity on the iGaming legislative front.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton has introduced federal online poker legislation twice. Texas also had two other iGaming bills introduced in 2013, but none of these efforts came to fruition.
Lawless texas is filled with brothels, gambling venues, and saloons.
State legislature legalized pari-mutuel betting.
Charities approved for limited lottery style games.
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows tribes to negotiate for casino gambling. Le Mistral becomes the first casinos cruise ship to dock in Texas.
Foreign port of call law for cruise ships is repealed.
Texas Lottery approved.
Federal govrnment forces Speaking Rock to close.
Kickapoo opens revamped 100,000 square foot casino.
Two bills introduced to legalize internet poker; both die at the committee level.
Daily fantasy sports bill proposed but it quickly fades.
Texas bans vices like drinking, gambling, and prostitution.
Texas bans pari-mutuel betting.
Court of Appeals rejects 1971 laws that exempted charities from anti lottery laws.
Voters approve pari-mutuel betting. Texas Racing Commission opens the same year.
State legalizes simulcast betting at racetracks.
Tigua Tribe opens Speaking Rock Bingo
Kickapoo Tribe opens casino that offers bingo, blackjack, and poker. Speaking Rock Bingo adds slot machines.
Texas Rep. Joe Barton introduces Online Poker Act of 2011; bill doesn't advance in congress.
Rep. Barton introduces more federal online poker legislation; it fails to garner serious attention.
Texas Gambling FAQs
With no specific laws addressing internet gambling and a host of available offshore sites, Texas iGaming is confusing to many gamblers.
Here are some FAQs we've received on the Lone Star State that can help clear up the matter.
According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, daily fantasy sports (DFS) aren't legal. Here's an excerpt from his January 2016 letter:
"Because the outcomes of games in daily fantasy sports leagues depends partially on chance, an individual's payment of a fee to participate in such activities is a bet. Accordingly, a court would likely determine that participation in daily fantasy sports is illegal gambling."
DraftKings, the industry's largest site, has refused to take this ruling lying down. They launched a lawsuit against Paxton and continue to operate in the Lone Star State; FanDuel, however, exited Texas.
State Rep. Richard Raymond introduced legislation that would've classified DFS as a skill based activity, but House Bill 1457 failed to gain any serious attention.
It could be a decade or more.
Texas isn't receptive of new forms of gambling. The casinos and gaming parlors they have skirt state laws by offering Class II machines that operate through loopholes.
With no commercial casino industry to lobby for internet gambling, it seems unlikely that the activity will be available any time soon.
Strangely enough, though, Texas has had federal legislative efforts come out of their state.
U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-Tex.) proposed the Online Poker Act of 2011, which would've legalized online poker on a federal level. But HR-2366 didn't get any significant attention in Congress.
In 2013, Barton introduced another legislative effort called the Poker Freedom Act. This also sought to regulate internet poker on a federal level, while leaving online casino games up to individual states.
The same year saw former State Senator Leticia van de Putte introduce State Bill No. 1103. This legislation would've allowed states to opt in to federally legalized internet poker.
None of Texas' iGaming bills have gotten very far. But they do show that state politicians at least consider the matter.
Looking at Texas today, though, we don't see them regulating online gaming for another 10 years.
Texas will bust an online gambling operation - they just haven't shown the willingness to cross seas to do it.
In 2013, state police raided a $5 billion online sports betting operation in the North Texas area.
The eighteen-member ring accepted both online and in-person bets, making $200 million in profits from 2007 to 2011.
The main reason why this group was busted is because they operated on US soil.
It's an entirely different ballgame to pursue offshore gaming sites operating in countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Costa Rica, and Panama. The only state that has successfully done this is New York, which was backed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Because of their size, Texas has the resources to pursue offshore gambling sites. But like most other American states, they view other things as more important than chasing gambling sites.
Gambling on your smartphone isn't technically legal. But we don't see you ever being arrested for it.
Code 47.01 (4) states the following about illegal gambling devices:
"...means any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance not excluded under Paragraph (B) that for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined solely or partially by chance, even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the contrivance."
This could include a smartphone or tablet if Texas felt like pursing mobile gamblers. But they've never arrested anybody for internet gambling, and we don't see this changing anytime soon.
Here's information on Texas gaming agencies and where you can find the state's gambling laws.
- Texas State Law Library
- FAQs with Texas State Attorney General
- Texas Amusement Gaming Laws
- Texas Racing Commission
This website features many laws related to Texas' gambling industry.
This page covers multiple gambling-related FAQs with Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton.
This page offers a comprehensive look at laws for Texas bingo, general gambling, lotteries, and racing.
The Texas Racing Commission website features information on the state's dog and horse racing industries.
Texas features most forms of gambling, although they're very limited in the casino, pari-mutuel, and poker categories.
The Lone Star State has been conservative on the gambling front ever since the lawless 1800s. This means that they're slow to adapt to new forms of gaming.
The same holds true for internet gambling because Texas hasn't legalized casino games, poker, or daily fantasy sports.
Surprisingly, Texas has had politicians try to legalize online poker on a federal level. But these efforts have never earned a serious look.
Odds are that iGaming will never be legalized on a federal level until the state has commercial casinos. This has been an absolute condition thus far in regulated states like Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Given that Texas has no immediate plans for casinos, this alone could take 5 to 10 years to happen. Then, we're looking at a few more years until the Lone Star State regulates internet gambling.
Until that happens, you're free to enjoy offshore gaming sites, because Texas ignores both operators and players.