Texas has the strictest gambling laws in the country, but could the state benefit from changing its outlook? Texas Hold ‘Em is perhaps the most popular card game in the world, but if you were to play it in the state that it took its name from, you could find yourself facing a $500 misdemeanor fine.
Texas has some of the strictest gambling laws in the whole of the United States, if not the entire western world. Penal Code 47.01 prohibits almost every form of gambling in the state, apart from a few bizarre exceptions like dog and horse racing.
Roulette, slot casino wagering and sports betting are all strictly off-limits in Texas (well, almost strictly off-limits, but we’ll get to that later). In this article, we take an in-depth look at what is and isn’t legal in the state, as well as hypothesizing whether Texas would benefit from adopting the same approach to gambling as the United Kingdom.
What is illegal in Texas?
Under the Penal Code, any form of gambling, defined as a bet placed on the premise of winning or losing something based purely on chance, is illegal. The following activities are classed definitively as gambling and are therefore illegal in Texas:
1. Casino gambling
All forms of casino gambling are illegal in Texas.
Every game on offer in a casino, from slot machines to poker, blackjack, and roulette, is categorized as gambling and is considered illegal. The law is not just limited to landbased casinos but it also applies to online companies looking to provide casino games to customers, too. Texan people currently cannot enjoy the amazing variety of games people can access in the UK at registered, popular sites like 888 Casino, where you’ll find exhilarating graphics and exciting games, including online roulette, blackjack, and poker.
However, there is one notable exception to this law which prohibits ‘keeping a gambling place’. In Native American lands, this law is not applicable meaning there are one or two places within the state where you can enjoy casino gambling facilities.
2. Sports betting
A night spent wagering on greyhound racing is legal in Texas, whilst more mainstream sports betting is not.
Wagering on the outcome of any mainstream sport in Texas is illegal and subject to the $500 misdemeanor fine. That applies to betting shops which are strictly prohibited and also the use of sports betting websites that may be registered in a different state or country.
Horse racing and dog racing are however exempt from these laws, but only at licensed premises where you are permitted to bet just off the track. Simulcast races and ontrack pari-mutuel wagering are legal for horse racing.
Whilst there is a limit of three racetrack licenses for greyhound wagering with simulcast races and on-track pari-mutuel wagering also being legal.
3. Social Gambling
You may well think that social gambling would cover any form of gambling played between friends, such as a poker night or a special casino-style evening. However, in Texas social gambling refers solely to bingo and raffles sponsored by charitable organizations or licensed lotteries.
These activities are legal and enjoyed by many Texas residents. Social gambling in the non-legal sense is not. Even if you’re just playing a friendly game of cards at home with your friends you are all technically breaking the law.
Are there plans to loosen gambling laws in Texas?
Some states in the USA have legalized gambling, with it becoming increasingly popular.
The entire country is currently facing a crossroads when it comes to gambling, particularly the online derivative. In many states across the USA, there is a clear disparity between land-based gambling and online gambling with the latter almost always being illegal or at least partially prohibited.
At the time of writing a small handful of states have taken the bold step to legalize most forms of online gambling and are currently reaping the economic benefits. This has led to a lot more states putting forward tentative legislation to do the same, and it is expected that most states will have moved towards legalization by at least 2021.
Texas, however, is one of the most traditionally conservative states in the USA and will most likely be one of the last, if not the last states to loosen their gambling laws. There is a bill currently on the docket that pro-gambling advocates are pushing for, but that concerns mainly sports betting.
It is therefore likely that sports betting will be the first gambling act to be legalized throughout Texas. Gambling fans will, however, have to wait at least a few more years to see any further movement on casino, cards, and online gambling laws.
Is it worth loosening the gambling laws?
The arguments for and against gambling laws often become heated and extreme. One of the best and calmest way to analyze the effects of looser gambling laws is by being objective and looking to the example of the United Kingdom, a country that has previously struggled with gambling legislation but is now providing a successful blueprint.
British Gambling: An overview
Online gambling in the UK is booming, with the economy seeing significant boosts from since it was introduced.
In the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland) almost every form of gambling is legal, ranging from casino betting and lotteries to online sports wagering. That policy of legalization has been hugely beneficial for the country.
The British economy has grown and benefitted from the widespread legalization of gambling. The industry in its entirety represents annual revenues of £15 billion ($19.76 billion) and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs.
One of the biggest arguments against gambling legalization is always the social problems that may be incurred by gambling. However, in the UK experts claim that extra exposure to gambling has resulted in a more mature attitude to gambling, with a population who’s less likely to encounter problems with gambling.
The National Lottery in the UK has been running for the better part of three decades is one of the biggest contributors to charity in the country. It has helped to fund various schemes and enterprises as well as provide funding to the Olympic teams. In addition to this, every gambling operator in the country is required to donate a percentage of their turnover to gambling charities which provide help to those struggling with gambling problems.
On the balance of all available evidence, it is safe to say that the legalization of gambling in the UK has had a positive impact on a range of measurable areas. With public opinion beginning to lean towards a similar approach in the USA and Texas, perhaps lawmakers should look to follow their lead?