Introduction to Texas Gambling

The Lone Star State, known for its rich history and fierce independence, presents a complex tapestry when it comes to the gambling scene. In Texas, where the cowboy culture runs deep, gambling has roots that trace back to the frontier days. Yet, modern Texas gambling remains a blend of traditional stances and evolving attitudes.

As we embark on this journey through the various facets of gambling in Texas, we’ll uncover the intricacies of the state’s gambling laws and explore what’s legally available—from the roll of the dice to the spin of the roulette wheel, and the shuffle of cards to the rush of sports excitement. So, saddle up as we delve into the thrilling yet regulated world of Texas gambling, providing insights for enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

History of Gambling in Texas

The story of gambling in Texas is as storied and tumultuous as the state’s own history. From the saloons of the Wild West to the modern-day legislative chambers, gambling has been a topic of debate and evolution in Texas for centuries.

The Early Days: Gambling was a common pastime in the saloons of early Texas, with poker and other card games being particularly popular among settlers and cowboys. However, as the state evolved, so did its stance on gambling, with many forms becoming outlawed over time due to moral and social concerns.

20th Century Changes: The mid-1900s saw the introduction of pari-mutuel betting on horse and greyhound racing, which became one of the first legal forms of gambling in the state. This was a significant departure from the strict anti-gambling laws that had been in place.

Recent Developments: In more contemporary history, the Texas Lottery was established in 1991, becoming a legal and widely accepted form of gambling that contributes to state education funding. Despite this, most other forms of gambling remain illegal under Texas state law, with only a few exceptions, including charitable bingo and raffles, and gambling in Native American-operated casinos under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Ongoing Debate: The 21st century continues to see vigorous debate over the expansion of gambling within Texas, with sports betting, casino gambling, and online gambling often at the center of conversation. While there has been resistance, proponents argue for the economic benefits and additional revenue streams that regulated gambling could bring to the state.

With such a rich history, it’s clear that the conversation and laws around gambling in Texas are ever-changing, with the future of gambling in the state an ongoing and dynamic narrative.

Types of Legal Gambling in Texas

Despite having a conservative stance on gambling, Texas offers certain legal gambling avenues that provide residents and visitors with some opportunities to partake in these activities. Let’s explore what’s available.

Texas Lottery

The Texas Lottery is one of the most widely recognized forms of legal gambling in the state. Since its inception in 1992, it has contributed billions of dollars to state education and veterans’ programs. Lottery offerings include:

  • Scratch-off tickets with instant prizes
  • Lotto Texas
  • Powerball and Mega Millions multi-state jackpot games

Horse and Greyhound Racing

Pari-mutuel wagering on horse and greyhound racing is permitted at several licensed racetracks across Texas. Here, betting enthusiasts can enjoy the excitement of live or simulcast races. Major racetracks include:

  • Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie
  • Retama Park in Selma
  • Sam Houston Race Park in Houston
  • Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque (for simulcast betting)

Charitable Bingo and Raffles

Charitable gambling, including bingo and raffles, is allowed under strict regulations. These activities are often hosted by non-profit organizations with the proceeds going to good causes. Key points include:

  • Organizations must obtain a license to host bingo games or conduct raffles
  • Prizes and frequencies of these events are regulated by the state

Texas Casino Gambling

In contrast to the widespread prohibition of casino gambling, Texas is home to a few Native American-operated casinos, such as:

  • Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, offering slot machines, poker, and bingo

These casinos operate under federal law, specifically the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which allows certain gaming operations on sovereign tribal lands.

Poker in Texas

The legality of poker in Texas remains a gray area. However, several membership-based poker clubs have opened across the state, operating under a model that they argue complies with Texas law by not directly profiting from the games.

  • These clubs charge membership or seat rental fees instead of taking a rake from each pot
  • The legality of these clubs continues to be subject to legal challenges and interpretation

Sports Betting in Texas

Sports betting is a hot-button issue in many places, and Texas is no exception. While currently, sports betting remains illegal in the Lone Star State, there have been movements and discussions regarding its potential legalization.

Current Stance on Sports Betting:

  • As of now, there are no legal sports betting options in Texas.
  • Attempts to pass sports betting legislation have faced opposition, despite growing interest from lawmakers and the public.

Pending Legislation:

  • Recent legislative sessions have seen bills introduced to legalize sports betting, but none have passed as yet.
  • These bills propose different regulatory frameworks, including potential oversight by the Texas Lottery Commission and various tax rates.

Future Prospects:

  • With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018, the door has been opened for states to make their own decisions regarding sports betting.
  • Texas, with its substantial population and major sports teams, is seen by many industry experts as a sleeping giant for potentially significant sports betting revenue.
  • However, any change would require a significant shift in the state’s traditionally conservative approach to gambling.
Introduction to Texas Gambling

Fantasy Sports in Texas

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is a popular form of entertainment where players manage virtual sports teams and compete based on the statistical performance of real athletes. The legal status of DFS in Texas has been debated in recent years.

The Legal Position:

  • In 2016, the Texas attorney general issued an opinion that deemed DFS as constituting illegal gambling under state law. Despite this, major DFS operators continue to serve Texas residents.

DFS Operator’s Stance:

  • DFS companies argue that fantasy sports are games of skill, not chance, and therefore are not subject to traditional gambling laws.

Continued Operation:

  • While there has been no decisive legal action to remove DFS from Texas, the uncertain legal climate continues to hang over the industry.

Gambling on Boats and Cruises

One unique aspect of Texas gambling lies in its water-based options. These casino boats and cruises sail into international waters, away from the jurisdiction of state laws, allowing guests to gamble legally.

Casino Cruises:

  • The most famous example is the Jacks or Better Casino, which operates out of Galveston.
  • Passengers can enjoy a variety of games like slots, blackjack, roulette, and poker once the ship is in international waters.


  • These cruises offer Texans a Vegas-like experience without having to travel across state lines.
  • They typically provide day or evening trips that include dining and entertainment options alongside gambling.

Online Gambling

Navigating the complexities of online gambling in Texas requires touching on both the state’s laws and the larger context of internet-based betting.

Legal Status:

  • Texas law does not currently permit online gambling, and state officials have taken steps to shut down such operations in the past.

Offshore Gambling Sites:

  • Despite the state’s restrictions, many Texans engage in online gambling through offshore websites that operate in legal grey areas.
  • These sites are not regulated by Texas authorities, which poses risks regarding fairness, data protection, and the legal recognition of winnings.

Legislation Outlook:

  • There’s an ongoing debate about the regulation and legalization of online gambling in Texas. However, given the state’s conservative approach to gambling, significant legal changes seem distant.
  • As in sports betting, advocates argue that legalization could bring substantial tax revenue and help in curbing illegal gambling activities.

The Legal Framework of Texas Gambling

Let’s tie it all together by understanding the legal foundation that governs gambling activities in Texas.

Gambling Laws and Regulations:

  • The Texas Penal Code outlines what constitutes legal and illegal gambling in the state.
  • The Texas Racing Commission governs horse and greyhound racing.
  • The Texas Lottery Commission oversees the lottery and charitable bingo operations.

Gambling Legislation Prospects:

  • Any expansion of gambling activities, whether it’s casinos, sports betting or online gambling, typically requires not only legislative action but also a constitutional amendment approved by voters.
  • With an increasingly diverse population and evolving attitudes toward gambling, there may be shifts in policy in future legislative sessions.

Responsible Gambling and Help for Problem Gambling

Gambling should be a source of entertainment, not stress or financial difficulty. In Texas, as in many other regions, there is a strong emphasis on promoting responsible gambling habits and providing assistance to those who experience problems related to gambling.

Promoting Responsible Gambling:

  • Recognizing the signs of problem gambling, such as chasing losses or gambling until all money is gone, is crucial for early intervention.
  • Setting limits on time and money spent on gambling activities can help maintain betting as a form of leisure.

Support for Problem Gambling:

  • The Texas Lottery Commission and other organizations in Texas promote awareness about problem gambling.
  • The state provides resources for players who might need help, including self-exclusion programs and support for families affected by gambling addiction.


  • The Texas Council on Problem Gambling offers support and information for anyone struggling with gambling issues.
  • The National Council on Problem Gambling operates a 24-hour confidential helpline, which can be reached at 1-800-522-4700.

Prevention and Education:

  • Various programs within the state aim to educate the public, particularly the youth, about the risks associated with irresponsible gambling.
  • These programs extend to promoting a broader understanding of probabilities and the nature of gambling as an activity where the odds are typically against the player.


When it comes to Texas gambling, many questions arise. Here are some frequently asked questions with their answers:

1. Is it legal to gamble online in Texas?

  • No, online gambling is not currently legal under Texas state law.

2. Are there any casinos in Texas?

  • Yes, there are a few Native American-operated casinos in the state, such as Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, offering limited gaming options.

3. Can I legally bet on sports in Texas?

  • No, sports betting is currently illegal in Texas, with no legal sportsbooks operating within the state.

4. Where can I find help if I have a gambling problem?

  • Assistance is available through the Texas Council on Problem Gambling and the National Council on Problem Gambling’s confidential helpline at 1-800-522-4700.

5. Will Texas legalize more forms of gambling in the future?

  • While some lawmakers have proposed legislation to expand gambling options, any change would require a constitutional amendment and voter approval. The future of gambling expansion in Texas remains uncertain.


Gambling in Texas presents a mix of traditional restrictions and incremental advancements. With only a few legal gambling options available, many Texans look forward to the possibility of future expansions. However, as debates and legislative efforts continue, the importance of gambling responsibly and recognizing the help available cannot be overstated. As the curtains close on our exploration of Texas gambling, one thing remains clear: whether betting on horses or scratching off a lottery ticket, always play within your means, maintain perspective, and let the good times roll responsibly.