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Texas Online Poker & Gambling Legislation

Is Online Poker Legal in Texas?
Texas Online Poker & Gambling Legislation
Last Updated September 11, 2019

Texas Online Poker & Gambling Legislation
Last Updated May 29, 2019

Poker wouldn’t be poker without Texas. After all, without Texas, we’d all just be playing plain old hold’em. Without Texas, we wouldn’t have some of the game’s most enduring legends, such as Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and WSOP founder Benny Binion.

No-limit Texas Hold’em made Texas an indelible part of poker. Card players in the Lone Star Star love poker, both in land-based casinos and online poker. This page discusses the Internet poker rooms available to Texas poker players in this Guide to Playing Online Poker in Texas.

If you came here looking for how to play online poker in Texas or the tips on the best Texas poker sites, we suggest you read our real-money poker guide.

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Poker Sites Open to Players From Your State

Current Updates for TX – Laws,  Legislation & House Bills

Poker players have fought for legalized poker for years, whether in Texas online poker rooms or in brick-and-mortar establishments. In 2012-2013, Senator Rodney Ellis introduced casino bills that included the legalization of poker, but Ellis received no support from his fellow lamwakers.

Since then, Texan entrepreneurs took the initiative. Private poker clubs have popped up around Texas, mostly in large cities like Houston and Dallas. Players don’t pay a rake or tournament fees. Instead, they pay membership or entrance fee, similar to a country club. The clubs make money from membership fees, seat rental fees, and food and beverage sales.

Poker clubs operate in a grey area. Local law enforcement shut down some poker clubs, but some in other towns remain open and assert their rights legally. A court ruling might decide the law, as the legislature won’t legalize Texas poker anytime soon.

AG Ken Paxton Dithers on Live Poker Rooms

The most recent news out of Texas is that Attorney General Ken Paxton will not be issuing any type of decision regarding the live poker rooms. State Representative Geanie Morrison formally asked Paxton if poker rooms that charge membership fees but don’t charge rake permitted are legal. Paxton officially refused to answer. A spokesperson for his office said that it is a legal matter being litigated in the courts, so courts should resolve the issue.

In 2018, Attorney General Ken Paxton said he would not issue any type of decision regarding the live poker rooms. State Representative Geanie Morrison formally asked Paxton if poker rooms that charge membership fees — but don’t charge rake — are permitted under the current law. Many state lawmakers have been asking the same question, but Paxton officially refused to answer. A spokesperson for his office said that the courts should resolve the issue.

Texas Poker Clubs – A Legal Gray Area

Poker clubs around Texas continued to operate as usual until May 1, 2019.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Houston Police Department coordinated to raid the two largest poker clubs in Houston on May 1. Nine owners and managers from the Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker Club were arrested and charged with money laundering as a part of engaging in organized crime activities. The two clubs’ bank accounts were also frozen and all funds seized. District Attorney Kim Ogg said, “Poker rooms are illegal in the state of Texas.”

Interestingly, however, all charges were dropped in July. All money was returned. The DA’s office commented that the dismissal of charges was the result of “multiple potential conflicts of interest” within her office. It seems that a contract employee of her office also worked for a law firm that tried to extort money from the two poker clubs while conducting an investigation of them. Said law firm – Jones Walker – then became the target of a lawsuit by Prime Social in early September.

2019 Texas Sports Betting Bills

Texas Rep. Eduardo Lucio introduced Texas House Bill 1275 and Texas House Joint Resolution 61 to the House in February 2019. HR 1275 would regulate land-based sports betting and impose a 6.25% tax. HRJ 61 would let Texans vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize sportsbooks through a statewide vote.

Type/CodeSummary
State Code Section(s)PEN.10.47; CIV.6
Definition of GamblingA person commits an offense if he 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; makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.
Definition of Gambling DeviceAny electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance that for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined solely or partially by chance, even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the contrivance. The term includes, but is not limited to, gambling device versions of bingo, keno, blackjack, lottery, roulette, video poker, or similar electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical games, or facsimiles thereof.
Definition of BetAn agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance.
Online Poker/GamblingThere have been no proposals in the state legislature that would legalize online poker or internet gaming of any kind.
Live PokerThe live poker offered at cardrooms in major cities in Texas advertise as membership club. No rake is taken from the poker games, though there are fees to enter or belong to the clubs. So far, there have been no court decisions that have closed these poker rooms.
CasinosThere are no casinos in Texas, though cardrooms exist as entertainment venues.
Sports BettingHR1275 and HJR 61 would regulate Texas sports betting.
DFSA proposal to legalize daily fantasy sports was proposed in 2017, but died in committee.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse and greyhound racing, on-track pari-mutuel betting, lottery, social gambling, bingo and charitable gambling, contests of skill.

Texas Gambling & Poker Laws Summarized

 

Texas Daily Fantasy Sports Laws – Is It Legal?

In January 2016, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that daily fantasy sports gaming was illegal in Texas. FanDuel announced it would no longer offer games to Texans after May 1, 2016. DraftKings filed suit in a Texas court, asking the court to rule DFS legal. That court case has not been resolved yet.

8-Liners in Texas Towns

One other oddity exists on the Texas landscape. Under Texas State law, the gaming machines called 8-Liners or “maquinitas“ are legal if local municipalities approve them. and the owner does not pay winnings in cash. Winners are paid in store credit, gas, or groceries. Despite that limitation, 8-liners generate $5.4 billion in revenues each year.

8-Liners create a problem for local law enforcement. Business owners often pay cash for winnings, which is illegal. Just in the past 3 years alone, Texas law enforcement has raided 8-liner operations for illegal cash payments in the following cities: San Antonio, Poth, Athens, Cap City, Eustace, Seven Points, Tool, Gun Barrel City, San Benito, Rio Grande City, La Joya, Cameron County in the Rio Grande Valley, and McAllen.

Texas Poker Sites – Where to Play Online Legally?

Most Texas poker players drive to Oklahoma or Louisiana to gamble. Several of the largest casinos (by gaming space) in the world are located an hour north of Dallas: Winstar Casino in Thackerville and Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma. The casinos in Bossier City and Shreveport, Louisiana also get most of their business from Dallas-Fort Worth.

Texans who want to know the closest card room should read our list of real money poker rooms.

Is Online Poker Legal in Texas?

As a rule of thumb, a poker site that accepts American players will also accept poker players from Texas. It’s NOT illegal to play online poker in Texas. In fact, unlike Washington, Texas poker players can legally play on offshore poker sites, like Bovada. The only illegal activity is owning or operating a poker room.

The rooms we’ve listed above are Texas-friendly, but they’re far from the only online poker rooms where Texans can play real-money games. Read through our list of online poker — Texas exists in a gray area, but Texans can play at most US-friendly sites.

What Forms of Gambling Are Legal in Texas?

Poker players are naturally curious about whether or not playing poker for real money online is legal under Texas law. Offering legal advice is not a function of this website (nor of anyone beyond legal professionals), but we can help you sort through the fundamentals of poker laws in Texas.

What counts as gambling in Texas?

The definition of “bet” (Section 47.01(1)) is short and sweet – it’s when you enter into an understanding “to win or lose something of value” in an activity that involves chance.  Specifically, the winning or losing must occur “solely or partially by chance.” The definition includes the phrase “partially by chance,” so a bet is anything with any element of chance. The definition of “gambling device” (Section 47.01(4) clarifies the law further.

Making illegal bets is a misdemeanor in Texas (Section 47.02). Those who break the law could face a half-dozen separate charges. Gambling promotion (Section 47.03) is a misdemeanor, and covers operating, promoting, processing bets and selling lottery chances. Possession of Gambling Device, Equipment, or Paraphernalia (Section 47.06) is also a misdemeanor.

Will Texas Regulate Internet Poker?

It’s unlikely Texas will regulate online poker. Texas proponents of land-based casino gambling faced a long fight in the past. Texas online poker is even further away from approval.

Texas Gambling Facts

Texas regulates lottery betting and pari-mutuel bets on racing, and charitable gambling (raffles and games of bingo).

Tribal gambling is complicated. Naskila Gaming at Livingston owned by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino at Eagle Pass, and Speaking Rock Entertainment by the Tigua Tribe of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo each operate casino gaming. All three tribes are embroiled in multi-year legal battles with the state of Texas.

Purely social gambling in a private place or regulated gambling activity is legal, if the house makes no profit.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Texas in the News
  • July 11th, 2018

    Poker rooms operating in Texas have no plans to shut down. They believe in their right to operate enough to take it to the courts if they must. The loopholes in the law, in addition to the antiquated laws surrounding poker in Texas, may be challenged in just that way,

    Read Full
  • May 8th, 2018

    Poker players in Texas know how to find games. Whether they travel to neighboring states that allow casinos and card rooms or locate underground games closer to home, there are ways to play poker. Some have found a different avenue. With some legal advice and personal determination, a number of

    Read Full
  • October 20th, 2017

    Texas is one of the few states in America that does not permit poker rooms, clubs, or games with any type of money involved. Despite the global popularity of Texas Hold’em, the state itself has yet to consider any true poker legalization measures. Only one casino operates in Texas, and

    Read Full
  • August 18th, 2017

    One of the greatest mysteries in the world of poker is the notion that Texas Hold’em – and any other kind of poker game – is illegal in the state of Texas. No matter the mainstream popularity of poker or the many reports showing the level of skill overrides luck

    Read Full

Texas’ Forms of Regulated Internet Gambling

This is a much shorter list, as the state of Texas does not regulate any form of online gambling activity. As noted in our earlier section discussing the likelihood that Texas will regulate online poker, there’s almost certainly quite a bit of daylight between now and a time when Texas is issuing licenses to online gambling operators.

Additional Research on Texas Gambling

Texas Tribune: Gaming/Gambling. Dedicated section from the Texas Tribune covering all in-state gaming and gambling issues. Includes news and interviews with major industry players.

Senator Rodney Ellis . Internet home of Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), the driving force behind a proposal that would allow voters to decide whether or not to bring casinos to Texas.

Texas Lottery . Official website for the state lottery of Texas contains winning numbers along with a wealth of historical and statistical data about the lottery.

Texas’ and the History of Poker

It’s hard for a state to be any more integral to the game of poker than Texas. After all, the state name is right smack at the start of what is by far the most popular format of modern poker: Texas Hold’em. The “Godfather” of poker, Doyle Brunson, is still better known to some poker fans as Texas Dolly. The subject of one of the most epic poker matches (and stories) in history – Andy Beal – is (you guessed it) a card-carrying Texan. We could go on.

Poker is now by and large an underground activity in Texas, so the state doesn’t get the same spotlight as your Las Vegas or your Atlantic City. But we can guarantee that if the same laws existed in Texas as Nevada, you might quickly see the center of the American poker universe gravitate a bit closer to the Lone Star State.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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