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Texas is an interesting place to talk about with regard to gambling because it is a state that features a clash of liberal and conservative ideals. To make a long story short, it is the extremely conservative nature of the state that has won over things when it comes to gambling. There are very few casino options and that is something that does not look to be changing anytime soon. While this is the case, neighboring states boast casinos that are a constant draw for Texans.
With time, and as more potential tax revenue streams over the border, there is hope that Texas will become friendlier to casinos. With that being said, recent attempts to introduce pro-casino legislation have not gone over very well. Either the measures have been shot down entirely, or state lawmakers simply feel as though they have more important things to focus on.
Kickapoo Lucky Eagle
Texas may not be a gambling hotspot, but there’s simply no denying the fact that local land-based gambling enthusiasts simply don’t have too many reasons to complain. Casino-style games are available at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle while pari-mutuel betting is allowed at the local racetracks such as the Lone Star Park or Sam Houston Park.
Charitable gambling events and the state-controlled lottery are also an option if you care about purely recreational gambling. Despite having a rather solid land-based gambling industry, Texas doesn’t have a regulated iGaming market, so local gambling enthusiasts simply play on offshore sites.
Not only does the Texas state government show no signs of making casinos legal, it actively works to shut down gambling operations that fit into the gray area between federal and state law. Despite the political environment, and the recent closing of a casino cruise in Galveston and a tribal casino in El Paso, two tribal casinos remain in operation.
At the present moment, the only site that can be at all interpreted as a casino is known as Kickapoo Lucky Eagle, located in Eagle Pass, Texas. As you might expect, the casino is on Native American land and only exists thanks to a Federal Act that was passed back in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, the only casino games available to be played at this site are slot games and poker. Classic casino games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, and baccarat are all illegal in Texas.
Lucky Eagle Casino is located in Eagle Pass, two-and-a-half hours southwest of San Antonio, next to the Texas-Mexico border. The Kickapoo-run casino features 3,300 electronic gaming machines, bingo, and poker. There is also a hotel attached to the casino and six restaurants.
Naskila Gaming is located just outside of Livingston, a 90-minute drive from Houston. The casino features 800 electronic gaming machines. Naskila has been in a protracted fight with the Texas government for years, having been forced to shut down a previous casino. Following a court ruling in favor of the Alabama-Coushatta tribes, this current casino opened in 2016.
Slot machines in Texas are Class II bingo-style electronic gaming machines, so while they look and act like traditional slot machines, they are actually bingo machines that pit players against one another.
You must be 21 years old to visit either of the tribal casinos in Texas.
Sports betting in Texas is illegal, and despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling allowing states to adopt laws to legalize sports gambling, Texas is unlikely to move in that direction anytime soon.
Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and majorities in both the Texas House and Senate have openly opposed the expansion of gambling laws in the state. Making matters more difficult, a constitutional amendment would likely be required to allow new gambling laws to pass.
Adding an interesting wrinkle to the issue is that the Dallas Cowboys, far and away the most popular sports team in the state of Texas, recently became the first National Football League (NFL) franchise to sign a partnership agreement with a casino. The WinStar World Casino and Resort just across the Red River in Oklahoma is now the official casino of the Dallas Cowboys.
The legality of daily fantasy sports (DFS) has been an unsettled issue in Texas for a number of years. In 2016, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote:
“Under section 47.02 of the Penal Code, a person commits an offense if he or she 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.”
That, however, was only an opinion. FanDuel left the state anyway, while DraftKings decided to stay and fight. FanDuel is now back in Texas two years later, offering paid games to customers within the state. They’ve joined DraftKings in a lawsuit against the state that requests a final and clear ruling on their legal status.
While there is no law specifically relating the legality of daily fantasy sports, all major DFS websites are currently operating in Texas.
There are also no laws specifically addressing eSports, but it’s worth noting the city of Arlington, Texas is spending $10 million on a new eSports center and arena.
There are five horse racetracks currently hosting live racing in Texas:
Sam Houston Race Park in Houston: Thoroughbred racing from January to March, and Quarter Horse racing from March through May
Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie: Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing from April through November
Retama Park in Selma: Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing from July through September
Gillespie County Race Track in Fredericksburg: Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in July and August
Las Palmas Race Park in Mission: Quarter Horse racing every Sunday
With the exception of Las Palmas Race Park, all of these venues also offer simulcast parimutuel wagering year-round.
Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque and Valley Race Park in Harlingen offer live dog racing and simulcast racing for both horses and dogs.
Along with the poker room at the Lucky Eagle Casino, private poker rooms are popping up around the state. So far, they haven’t faced any legal challenges. As long as they don’t take a rake, and instead get their revenue from membership fees and time-based seat fees, they seem to exist just outside of the state gambling laws that would prevent such rooms.
There are now more than 30 private poker rooms in Texas, with most of the rooms opening up around Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.
The Texas lottery has been around since 1992 and sells more than $5 billion dollars worth of tickets annually, netting the state around $1.3 billion in revenue. Along with scratch-off tickets, the lottery offers the following draw games:
For winnings over $5,000, federal taxes will be withheld at a rate of 24%. You must be 18 years of age or older to play, and prizes must be claimed within 180 days.
With a license from the Charitable Bingo Operations Division of the Texas Lottery Commission, religious, nonprofit, fraternal, and veterans organizations can conduct bingo games. Volunteer fire departments and volunteer emergency medical service providers can also get a license to host bingo. All net proceeds, minus 25% for operating expenses, must go back to the charity.
Only three bingo games per week are allowed per license, and the maximum aggregate amount awarded during a single bingo session may not exceed $2,500.
There are more than 1,200 charitable bingo games held throughout the state. You must be at least 18 years old to win cash prizes. Those under 18 can play if accompanied by a parent or guardian and if the prize is something other than cash.
Like most states in this part of the country, Texas was originally settled by folks who really loved to gamble. Whether it was at old-time casinos or at the many horse tracks across the state, gambling was by no means frowned upon during the very early days of the Texas Territory. Once the Territory officially became a state, however, things began to change. In fact, the state’s original constitution very clearly bans any and all types of gambling.
For quite some time, this all-out ban on all types of gambling persisted, then, in the early 1930s, it appeared as though things were going to begin to change. In 1933, the state moved to legalize pari-mutuel gambling at the state’s racetracks. This lasted not even 5 years before, once again, there was an all-out ban on all forms of gambling. It would be more than 50 years before horse race betting would once again be legalized. Even though Texas does allow for betting on races, they have repeatedly shot down efforts to add slot games like you will find in many other states around the US.
Even when Federal laws allowed for Native American tribes to attempt to open their own casino operations, Texas lawmakers fought and won a battle that stopped this. The battle actually shut down a number of high-stakes bingo halls and even put an end to construction projects that would have culminated in the building of massive resort casinos. When riverboat casinos, and any other casinos that existed on water, came to light, the state was quick to end that dream too. Citing some old laws, Texas was able to destroy the notion that riverboat casinos could exist.
Nowadays, Texas is a barren wasteland as far as casino gaming is concerned. This is not a very good thing either, as casinos located in neighboring states have profited to the tune of millions of dollars from Texans who cross over the border to gamble elsewhere.