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Gambling Laws in Texas: When and Where Texans Can Gamble

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Gambling Laws in Texas: When and Where Texans Can Gamble

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U.S. Gambling Overview

Americans have embraced gambling by for centuries. Before our country fought the Revolutionary War, settlers enjoyed European card games and participated in simple lotteries. As the country grew, gambling halls and saloons were gathering places. In the 20th century, local, state, and the federal government got involved. Some states sought to restrict gambling activities while others legalized gambling. Today, many states have brick and mortar casinos, sports betting outlets, lotteries, and race tracks.

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Nevada (Las Vegas) was the first to legalize many types of gambling in 1931. New Jersey (Atlantic City) followed decades later in 1977. With the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, reservations throughout the U.S. were permitted to offer gambling and gaming to generate revenues. To complicate things a bit, the Federal Wire Act of 1961 limited sports wagering between the states.

Online gambling has caused the states to review their positions on online casino games, including video poker, baccarat, roulette, keno, blackjack, faro, slots, craps, etc. If you’re accused of a gaming or gambling crime, or another party has offered illegal gambling in Texas, contact an experienced criminal attorney now.

When and Where is Gambling Legal in Texas and Throughout the U.S.

Gambling is legal for those who are 21 years of age or older at Eagle Pass in Texas (Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino). People in Texas can also legally participate in the Texas Lottery or make pari-mutuel wagers on greyhound and horse racing. Raffles, charitable bingo, and pull-tab bets are also considered legal in Texas.

In comparison, some states allow 18-year-olds to gamble. Today, Alaska, Arkansas**, California (some locations), Connecticut***, Delaware (horse racing only), Florida**/***, Idaho, Indiana**, Louisiana**, Maine**, Maryland**, Minnesota**, New Mexico, New York (by casino), Ohio**, Oklahoma (by casino), Oregon***, Pennsylvania**, South Dakota ***, Washington** (some casinos), Wisconsin***, and Wyoming allow some gambling to 18-year-olds.

**Pari-mutuel wagers only (short duration events, such as horse racing, jai alai, or greyhound racing, or any event with ranked order participation)
***Bingo only

All other states require gamblers to be at least 21 years of age. It’s impossible to get around the age requirement at brick and mortar casinos. If you attempt to gamble before you’re 21 years old, you may be arrested, incur fines, or have your money confiscated by law enforcement.

The point of confusion for many would-be gamblers concerns online gambling. For instance, there may be a difference in the age required by the site and the age required by Texas to gamble. If the site says you can gamble at age 18 but Texas state law requires you to be at least 21 years old, you must comply with Texas state law. Don’t risk jail time and fines for gambling or gaming arrests.

Texas Gambling Laws

Texas gambling laws are some of the strictest in the nation. For instance, Texas Hold ‘Em card game bets are illegal in Texas. Gamblers must be 21 years old. They may be on greyhound or horse racing, social gambling (like office pools), charitable raffles, and bingo. The law says that gambling on other games of chances is against the law in Texas.

Under Code Section PEN 47.01 et seq. and Civ. St. 179e, gambling, or agreeing to win or lose money or something of value based on chance, or keeping a casino (other than one casino on Indian lands) is prohibited. Promoting any form of gambling (other than pari-mutuel wagers), maintaining a place of gambling, communicating information about gambling, or owning gambling devices are illegal in Texas. For that reason:

Card games, sports bets, and scratch tickets (other than those legally offered by the Texas Lottery) are illegal.

Casinos, other than Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, are illegal in Texas. As a casino on native lands, the Lucky Eagle location is permitted.

Social gambling, like bingo games, private card games, or charity auctions are allowed unless the organizer takes a portion of the proceeds. The law in Texas says that gambling may occur in a private place as long as the chance of losing and winning are evenly distributed.

Slot machines with cash payouts are illegal in Texas. If the prizes are inexpensive and not cash items, such as a coffee pot, the law says it’s okay to play.

Slot Machines with Cash Payouts Are Illegal in Texas

According to a New York Times article, illegal slot machines are cropping up around Texas, especially in some Rio Grande Valley border towns. The problem has captured the attention of enforcement professionals of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It’s estimated that illegal slots machines generate approximately $1.9 billion per year (up to 150,000 illegal units).

Recognize that gambling at slot machines with cash payouts can mean arrest and legal consequences in Texas. If you or someone you know has been arrested for illegal gambling or gaming in Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side. If you or a loved one has been exploited because of gambling addiction in Houston, Harris County, or throughout Texas, you need a professional attorney to assist in the recovery of your money now. Don’t go it alone. Call Greg Tsioros to discuss your matter now at 832-752-5972 now. We’re standing by 24/7 to take your call.

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