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Online Gambling in Texas: an Expert Guide

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Online Gambling in Texas: an Expert Guide

Texans can gamble online for real money without fear of prosecution. While Texas has restrictive gambling laws like most southern states, individual online bettors are not fined or prosecuted. Many Texas gamblers play at offshore online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks. Launching your own online betting site would be illegal, but Texas players have many safe and legal play options.

This guide to Texas online gambling features the set laws and the latest gaming bills that Texans debate. It includes an FAQ section, as well as a timeline of Texas gambling laws. We also provide a list of the brick-and-mortar gaming venues in Texas, as well as honest reviews of the safest and best online casinos for Texans.

2020's Best Online Gambling Sites for Texas Players

Texas Online Gambling FAQs

Texas Gambling Laws

Texas has most forms of gambling: land-based casinos, racetracks, and lottery betting. Texas even has gaming machines called 8-liners and occasional poker clubs, but these come and go depending on local law enforcement.

The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel in Eagle Pass is the premier casino in Texas. Two other tribal casinos exist, but they are the source of ongoing legal battles with the State of Texas. As a general rule, judges side with Texas.

Naskila Entertainment is on shakier ground. The Naskila gaming complex is owned by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, which has been fighting with local and state authorities for over a decade to win recognition. The tribe attempted to open a casino in 2002, but state authorities shut it down. Fourteen years later, it opened Naskila Entertainment, but state officials immediately filed a lawsuit to shut it down.

Since 2016, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has been locked in a battle with the state of Texas. In 2018, Magistrate Keith Giblin ruled that the tribe could not operate its casino. When its federally recognized lands were restored in 1987, tribal officials agreed not to open a casino on the reservation. Giblin wrote in his opinion, “Until Congress can be persuaded to amend or repeal the Restoration Act, the court is obligated to abide by the plain language of the statute and the tribe must conform to the gaming laws and regulations of Texas as provided by the Restoration Act.”

The tribe vowed to continue the legal battle in the appellate court, so Naskila Entertainment remains in operation pending the appeals process.

Does Texas Have Land-Based Casinos?

Texas has two land-based casinos: Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel om Eagle Pass and Naskila Entertainment in Livingston.

Texas has two land-based casinos: Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel in Eagle Pass and Naskila Entertainment in Livingston. The Kickapoo casino is the only one on solid legal ground. Texas has three federally recognized tribes, but the Kickapoo Tribe is the only one which is authorized to own and operate a casino under provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1987-88.

 

Does Texas Have Any Legal Betting Tracks / Shops?

Yes. Texas has four horse tracks and three dog tracks spread around the state.

Yes. Texas has four horse tracks and three dog tracks spread around the state.

Grand Prairie is between Dallas and Fort Worth (adjacent to Arlington). Fredericksburg is 1-hour and 30-minutes west of Austin and 1-hour and 10-minutes north of San Antonio. Selma is on the outskirts of San Antonio. La Marque is near Galveston. Harlingen is near Brownsville on the border with Mexico (and the Gulf of Mexico).

Texas legalized pari-mutuel wagering in 1933 to raise funds for the state during the Great Depression. Governor James Allred banned pari-mutuels again in 1937, a ban which would last for 50 years. Beginning in 1960, notable gambler Virgil “Red” Berry began a long campaign to legalize pari-mutuel betting again, with four separate attempts (1962, 1968, 1974, 1978) defeated. The Baptist Church was a major opponent of such laws.

In 1987, the state legislature finally approved pari-mutuel wagers again. The Texas Racing Commission oversees four classes of licensing. Texas has three Class 1 horse tracks: Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, and Retama Park in Selma. The idea was to place one Class I track near the state’s three biggest population centers: Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Does Texas Allow Off-Track Betting?

No. While the seven race tracks have simulcasting and off-track betting, no off-track betting facilities (with no racing) exist in the state.

No. While the seven race tracks have simulcasting and off-track betting, no off-track betting facilities (with no racing) exist in the state. Pari-mutuel gamblers must go to a race track to enjoy OTB gaming.

 

Does Texas Allow Charitable Gambling?

Yes. Texas is a hotbed of charitable bingo.

Yes. Texas is a hotbed of charitable bingo. Most Native Texans remember childhood trips to local VFW for its charity bingo nights. 226 of 254 counties in Texas have legalized charitable bingo.

As of 2011, the state had 1,227 charitable bingo organizations. They awarded $533 million in prizes that year. The biggest legal prize amount of $750, so bingo gaming is widespread and popular.

Is Social Gaming Allowed in Texas?

Social gaming in the form of private poker games are allowed in Texas.

Social gaming in the form of private poker games are allowed in Texas. If you collect a rake, then your game is illegal. Several poker clubs have been raided in the past few years. Private poker games among friends seldom would be harassed.

Social casinos allow Texas online players to enjoy poker or casino games at Zynga, Double Down, Big Fish, or Slotomania, but they cannot accept rewards for play. MyVegas would be illegal in Texas.

Does Texas Have Poker Clubs?

Texas has over a dozen poker clubs operating at any given time, but these also have a shaky legal status.

Texas has over a dozen poker clubs operating at any given time, but these also have a shaky legal status. In the past 3 years, law enforcement in the Dallas and Houston areas try to shut down card rooms. Often, the poker clubs devise rules and policies to work around a Texas ban on poker.

It is illegal to charge a rake on organized poker. The clubs use alternate methods such as “seat licenses” and large up-front entry fees. One charged no fee at the door, but required customers to pay large fees on food and drink. Depending on the opinion of the local sheriff’s department, these policies can be challenged.

Does Texas Have Eight-Liners?

Yes. Eight-liners are gaming machines found in gas stations and convenience stores.

Yes. Eight-liners are gaming machines found in gas stations and convenience stores. Such machines are often in the back of the store near the cold drinks or the restrooms.

Eight-liners are legal (under the “Fuzzy Animal Rule” of 1993) only if they do not pay out in cash. Fifteen years ago, a UT professor estimated that Eight-Liners have $2 billion in turnover every year, so they are a major industry.

An 8-liner looks and acts much like a slot machine. The prizes have to be worth less than $5. The payouts tend to be grocery items, gas refills, scratch-offs, or lottery tickets. Despite those rules, Texas law enforcement claim that Eight-Liner businesses that pay out in cash are “universal”. Local law enforcement polices 8-liners and raids happen several times a year in the towns of East Texas and South Texas.

Owners of businesses with 8-Liners have been sent to prison for illegal payouts (see: Operation: Bishop), while local sheriffs have been prosecuted for taking bribes to look the other way.

Among the Spanish speaking population of Texas, Eight-Liners are known as “maquinadas” (machines).

Does Texas Have Casino Cruises?

At least one casino cruise business exists in Texas.

At least one casino cruise business exists in Texas. In Galveston, the Jacks or Better Casinos sets sail most days in good weather. Two cruises occur most days. For instance, a Wednesday schedule involves a cruise from 11:00am to 5:30pm and from 6:30pm to 12:00am.

Those booking passage should know that the ship must navigate to the international boundary 3 miles out to sea, where gambling then becomes legal.

Other casino cruises have existed in Texas in the past, while others might in the future. Texas port cities like Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christie are the likeliest places to find such a business. For now, you’ll need to go to Galveston.

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