Texas Gambling Laws Explained

With the rise of apps like FanDuel and Draftkings, sports gambling laws have become a hot button topic in all states. In Texas, where sports are as important as life itself, there's an additional interest in when the law will be altered. However one must remember that sports wagering is not the only type of gambling Texans' should be concerned about.

Table of Contents

Depending on the type of gambling (see below), gambling remains illegal in Texas. Except, like other federal territories, in Native American territories. However, even that seems to be up in the air (see recent laws). If Texas does legalize gambling in the near future, entire Native American communities could be jeopardized by the sudden influx of competition. Additionally, be sure to bookmark this page as session 87(R), the 2021 legislative session, saw an unbelievable flurry of activity related to gambling.

Types of Gambling

Texas defines a bet as agreeing to win or lose something of value based solely or partially on chance. This encompasses many different forms of gambling including cards, table games, betting on sports games, horse and dog races, slot machines, lottery, and scratch tickets.

Permitted Horse and Dog Racing

Texas gambling law allows for horse and dog racing. However, the owner must get a racing license from the state’s racing commission. Forgive the look of the because it is, after all, a government website, but includes information about who needs to be licensed and what for. Do not forget that two groups of employees must be licensed if you want to start your race track.

those in jobs that provide the opportunity to influence racing

those who will likely have significant access to the backside of a racetrack or to restricted areas of the front side of a racetrack.

TXRC

Casinos

Gambling in casinos is virtually illegal in Texas, with a tiny caveat. The law specifically prohibits “keeping a gambling place” in its text. The one exception here relates to Native American lands, long exempt from state gambling laws, which are considered legal gambling establishments.

Social Gambling

One big exception in Texas gambling laws is social gambling. This normally includes bingo games, auctions for charity, and private card games. If the “house” takes a cut of the proceeds, they may violate the gambling laws. Under the law, the gambling must be done in a private place, the only person to receive any economic benefit must be the winner of the bet, and the chances of winning and losing must be even between all participants (except for individual skill and luck).

This leads us nicely into the big question on everyone’s mind which is sports gambling laws in Texas.

Giveaways

A question we hear quite frequently asked is whether charitable giveaways are illegal or considered gambling. Luckily we’ve got you covered, but don’t forget to let us know if we’re wrong (in which case we did not have you covered).

Bingo

Bingo is not just a game played at retirement homes anymore (though they play them there as well), but it is now an institutional cash maker in Texas. Regulated by the Texas Lottery Commission, authorized members of the Charitable Bingo Operations Division (that’s really what they’re called) are allowed to offer Bingo sessions three times a week with a maximum cash prize of $750. It may not sound like much but this amounted to 533 million dollars in prizes in Texas in 2011.

Raffles

Additionally, Raffles has similar laws and restrictions but are legal. The prize value is limited to $50,000 but, get this, you can go beyond that amount if the prize is a house. A pretty clever piece of legislation for which, we guarantee you, there is a story behind.

Sports Gambling Laws

We have a full-length page on the hot button issue of sports gambling laws in Texas (at least hot button as of 2021), but for this section know that sports gambling in Texas remains illegal. As you can read in the section below, FanDuel and Draftkings (along with corresponding states who have officially allowed them) are forcing the hand of lawmakers around the state who desperately want to capitalize on the revenue potential created by the taxable earnings from gambling.

Poker Laws

The state named for the most famous type of poker globally (Texas Hold Em) has somewhat flexible poker laws. If you’re wondering whether your weekly poker home game is legal, you’re fine. The state considers any poker operation where the house takes a cut of the money in play (such as the rake), as strictly illegal. This is differentiates gaming establishments from private home games. However there is a loophole in the Texas law or perceived loophole, that deals with ‘poker clubs’ that charge a membership fee. For more information about this, read our full up-to-date article on poker laws in Texas.

It depends. If you’re referring to single-day fantasy sports made famous by mobile apps and websites such as DraftKings and FanDuel then yes, it’s legal. If you’re talking about the mobile betting sportsbooks that these apps now offer, it’s still currently illegal in Texas.

Online Sports Betting

Despite hard pushes in the most recent session from powerful lobbyist groups seeking to make sports gambling legal in Texas, online sports betting remains illegal in Texas. Currently, you violate 47.02 of the Texas penal code if you bet on a game, political outcome, a non-skill game, or are involved in the promotion of gambling. For the full laws and an explanation, read our up-to-date page on online sports betting laws in Texas.

Recent Law Changes

As is the model of the website, we’ll include information from this most recent legislative period (87R) below and update the page after the next session has concluded. To be clear this was the session that began in January of 2021 and concluded in May of 2021. This session was particularly marred by Covid-19 and thus less got done (as was the case all around the country).

Furthermore, the following legislation shows just how difficult it is to get anything done that overturns existing statutes. For gambling to be fully legalized, Texas congress would have to create a commission to handle it and would have to select where and when these counties could begin offering these services. It should therefore be no surprise that Representatives in Texas, desperate for economic relief and hoping to garner some of the revenue from sports gaming practices, have proposed the following legislation (particularly on the coast) for gambling to be legalized in some Texas counties.

The Vacation Gaming Bill: HB 2257

In a bill written solely for his district, Representative Guerra filed HB 2257 on February 24, 2021. The Bill, attempting to drive revenues from gaming to coastal vacation territories of Texas, reads as follows:

Gaming Laws relating to the operation of casino’s in certain state coastal areas to provide additional money for property tax relief; requiring occupational licenses and certifications; authorizing fees; imposing a tax; creating criminal offenses and providing other penalties.

HB 2257

Though this Bill was successfully filed, it failed to make it out of committee.

The Texas Gaming Commission: HB 770 and HJR 133

These were two bills aimed at a common goal of fostering the economic prosperity that could come with legalized sports gambling. HJR 133 sought to create a statewide gaming commission, while the other (HB 770) sought to see sports gaming legalized. The taxable revenues would go to education and public safety. However, both bills failed to make it out of the house with neither surviving the relevant committee.

The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas: 87(R) SJR 41

This Bill, another by Roland Gutierrez, was aimed at the ongoing relationship between the Kickapoo tribe, the United States, and the federal government. The tribe utilizes revenue from casinos to provide virtually all of the funding that enables housing, education, and social services to its members. His Bill was filled in the senate but, once again, failed to make it out of committee.

When Did It Become Illegal Anyway?

As we will never tire of mentioning, gambling, like all other human activities, are always legal until they are made illegal. hus the most recent changes occurred in the early 2000s. irst with laws in 2001 and 2002 that deal with charitable giveaways and the regulations surrounding them. hen in 2004, there was the “Professional Sports Team Charitable Foundation Raffle Enabling Act” which saw that there was a contradiction between the current law, the potential for sports gambling, and giveaways and thus came up with the following Bill.

Finally, under Texas law, betting is “considered a criminal offense if someone: makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or the performance of a participant in a game or contest.”- Penal Code §47.02