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Texas Gambling: What’s Legal & What’s Not

Posted on March 21, 2014 by Mintzer Law

Gambling is generally classified as a crime in Texas, but certain activities, such as bingo or a game of poker at a friend’s home, are legal. The distinction between activities that the law classifies as illegal gambling and those activities that are allowed can be difficult to discern from a casual reading of the Texas Penal Code. Knowing the difference can mean avoiding criminal penalties that could include a jail sentence and hefty fines.

Illegal Gambling in Texas

The Texas Penal Code includes various activities that constitute the crime of gambling if engaged in within the state. Examples of illegal gambling include:

  • Betting on the result of a game or contest
  • Betting on the outcome of a political election
  • Betting on any game that uses cards, dice or other gambling device

Operating a casino or other place for gambling is illegal under state law. It is also illegal to possess or use gambling devices such as electronic poker or blackjack machines or slot machines that payout in cash prizes or in points that can be converted into cash. An individual who rents a slot machine for a party could be prosecuted under the penal code for gambling if the machine is set up to pay winners a cash prize.

Penalties for Illegal Gambling in Texas

Gambling violations are usually classified as misdemeanors under the penal code in Texas. Most betting violations are Class C misdemeanors punishable by fines up to $500 for each violation. Promoting gambling by operating a place where gambling, such as games of chance and bookmaking, is allowed is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence up to two years and a fine up to $4,000.

Legal Gambling Activities

Agreements that allow a person to win or lose money or something of value based only on chance and not skill are considered an illegal bet in the Texas Penal Code. Contests that reward the winner based upon the person’s skill, speed, strength or endurance are not included in the definition of an illegal bet under the law.

Participation in the Texas Lottery or betting at a racetrack that is operating in compliance with the Texas Racing Act is permitted under the penal code. Also allowed are charitable raffles provided the prizes are merchandise with a value of $25 or less.

Gambling in a person’s home or other private place is not considered to be illegal as long as only the winners benefit. In other words, a private poker game would not be illegal as long as the owner of the home or establishment is not taking a cut of the money wagered and every participant has an equal chance of winning.

Gambling Defense

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun that is associated with gambling and lose sight of what’s legal and what isn’t. If you have broken any gambling laws or are being accused of doing so, then it is important to develop a strong legal defense. The best way to do this is to hire an experienced legal representative. Get a hold of Rand Mintzer by calling 713-862-8880.