Texas Gambling & Poker Laws

Texas Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Texas?

Attitudes in Texas about gambling laws are some of the hardest to decipher you'll ever find. Lawmakers in the state of Texas have worked hard to limit gambling interests beyond the official state lottery and the horse racing interests, yet the people of Texas clearly love to gamble. You might wonder how I know such things, but as a born Texan, I've seen it my whole life.

Notice all the casinos located along the borders of Texas. The Louisiana riverboat casinos located in Shreveport and Bossier City in northwestern Louisiana are about 3 hours from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Look in the parking lot of these casinos in northwest Louisiana and it's dominated by Texas license plates.

It's the same in Native American casinos located just north of the Red River in southern Oklahoma. Drive in the Choctaw Casino in Durant or the Win Star Casino in Thackerville, both about 10 miles north of Texas, and you'll see a parking lot full of Texas drivers on vehicles bought at North Texas car dealerships. The Choctaw and Chickasaw casino properties, located 1 hour north of the DFW Metroplex, have become some of the largest casino space in the entire world. I guarantee most of that money comes from Texas gamblers--not the residents of Oklahoma.

Texas Law and Poker

Like South Carolina, Texas state law specifically mentions games played with "cards" when defining what it means to engage in gambling. Section 47 of the Texas State Code (subsection 02(3)) prohibits betting anything "of value" on "games played with cards."

That makes it quite difficult to argue that poker doesn't count as gambling under Texas state law. And a variety of legal precedents buttress the notion that poker qualifies as gambling within the borders of Texas. 
The next question poker players typically ask: Given that poker is gambling, is there any way to play poker legally for real money in Texas? The answer: There are ways, but not as many as players would probably like.
With no commercial casinos, you won't find many live poker rooms in Texas. Tribal operators have been slowly moving into the market (see the Lucky Eagle as one example), but live poker is still pretty scarce in the Lone Star state. There have been frequent legislative attempts to bring more land-based gambling to Texas, but none has gained sufficient traction with voters or lawmakers.

On the matter of charitable gambling, Texas law allows bingo (see 2001.001) and raffles (see 2002.001) to be conducted by qualifying outfits. But poker has never been given the green light as an approved charitable gambling activity in Texas.

We'll end on a positive note for poker players in Texas. The charges for illegal gambling mention that social gambling does not constitute an offense. The standard rules apply for the exception to kick in; the game has to be non-profit, take place between people with a genuine relationship and no one can act as the "house" or "bank." Meet those conditions and your private poker game is 100% kosher in Texas - even if you're playing Omaha.

Texas Indian Casinos Closed

A certain amount of Texas anti-gambling laws are due to political skulduggery. The Tigua and Alabama Casinos, at the time Texas' only two Native American casinos, were closed in 2002. The closing of these casinos was a part of the larger Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals, for which Abramoff spent 5 years and 10 months in federal prison (2005-2010). It seems Jack Abramoff was on the payroll of Louisiana's Coushatta Indian Tribe. The Coushatta had a casino on the Texas-Louisiana border which relied heavily on Texas gamblers.

Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed were paid millions of dollars to create the impression Texans were dead set against casinos on moral grounds, when most of the furor was caused by paid lobbyists trying to protect Louisiana gaming interests. To underscore the crassness of the campaign, records from the Abramoff case show the Tigua Nation claimed after then-Texas Lt. Governor John Cornyn closed down the Tigua and Alabama casino operations, Ralph Reed approached them (the Tigua) to help them get their casinos reopened.

So when you look at the Texas gambling laws, note that a sizable number of Texans themselves seem to enjoy legalized gambling. While you'll find plenty of Texans who think betting on games of chance is immoral or at least morally corrupting, the issue is nowhere near unanimous. Texans vote differently every weekend in casinos throughout Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Kickapoo Lucky Eagles Casino

The Kickapoo Lucky Eagles Casino is the only Indian casino now operating in the state of Texas. This casino is located in Eagle Pass, Texas on the Rio Grande River, and thus the border with Mexico. Currently, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino has 400 Bingo seats, 1,857 video gambling machines, and 14 poker tables. Eagles Pass is located to the southwest of San Antonio. Texas is a huge state, so this casino is far removed from the casino interests in western Louisiana and southern Oklahoma.

Texas Legal Dog Racing Laws

Texas gambling legislation allows dog racing in the state. Three separate greyhound racing venues exist in Texas, in Harlingen, Corpus Christi, and La Marque. These dog racetracks are the Corpus Christi Dog Track, the Gulf Greyhound Park (La Marque), and the Valley Race Park (Harlingen).

Legal Texas Horse Racing Laws

The state government also allows thoroughbred and quarterhorse racing in Texas. You can find horse racing at the Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Texas. The three other horse tracks in Texas are Retama Park in Selma, the Gillespie County Fairgrounds in Fredricksburg, and Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, which is situation between Dallas and Fort Worth.

The Texas Racing Commission regulates all dog tracks, horse tracks, parimutuel betting, and off-track simulcasting in the state of Texas.

Learn About Other State Laws

Texas Charitable Raffle Laws

In 1990, the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act went into effect, allowing licensed charitable gaming organizations to operate legally in Texas. To learn more about this act, read Chapter 2002, Occupations Code of the Texas Annotated Code.

Texas Lottery Laws

Texas lottery laws include provisions for the Texas Lottery, the Mega Millions Multi-State Lotto, and the Powerful Multistate Lottery. Games offered in the Texas Lotto include the Cash Five, Daily 4, Pick 3, Texas Two Step, and the Second Chance Luck Zone. Scratch-offs are also available at most lottery vendors. All lottery gaming is regulated by the Texas Lottery Commission.

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