Online Poker and Gambling Laws in Texas
2021 Update: Can I Play Online Poker in Texas?
Texas hasn’t passed any online poker legislation and it seems unlikely the Lonestar State will do so anytime soon. Despite being the birthplace of Texas No-Limit Hold’em (allegedly), the state is not friendly towards poker.
Some card rooms started operating in the state a few years ago, but they were raided by the government in 2019. The District Attorney at the time said that poker rooms were illegal and they were clamping down on the practice. The charges were later dismissed, but it doesn’t bode well for online poker.
Sports betting is another good barometer for whether a state will legalize online poker. In that regard, things don’t look too gold for Texas. There was a bill introduced in 2019 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III that would regulate sports betting in the state. Because of Texas’s strict gambling laws, it would need a referendum to amend the state constitution to pass first.
Experts aren’t too confident that will happen. We’ll keep you updated if it does though.
Gambling Laws and Poker in Texas
Texas is an interesting state. It’s big in some personal freedoms, but it’s incredibly conservative when it comes to gambling. Despite being the birthplace of the most popular form of poker out there, Texas has clamped down on card rooms. Card rooms started popping up around the state and then they clamped down hard in 2019.
Texas has some of the strictest gambling laws in the country and they’ve been hesitant about loosening things up. The cornerstone of any regulation regarding gaming comes down to how a state defines gambling. In Texas, this is set by the Texas Penal Code § 47.01 and Texas Civil Statutes Art. 179e. In it, the state defines gambling as:
“Agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance.”
On the surface, it seems like this definition is fairly standard and similar to that of other states. Like most definitions, it hinges on the word “chance.” But what sets this definition apart and makes it so strict is the qualifier “solely or partially”. Poker is different from most casino games because it’s a game of skill. While players have known this for a while, it was ruled to be a game of skill at the federal level in 2012. This was important because it allowed states to start legislating online poker since it fell out of the purview of lots of state statutes.
But while poker is a game of skill, no one can argue that there isn’t some element of chance involved. That means that it would fall under Texas’s “solely or partially by chance” definition. That puts the game in a tougher path towards legislation in Texas.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Texas?
As you might’ve guessed from reading the previous sections, the answer is: No. You can’t play PokerStars in Texas and you haven’t been able to since 2011. Back then PokerStars was one of the most popular sites in the country. But the site left the US for a few years after a legal kerfuffle with the Department of Justice.
Now PokerStars is slowly coming back to the US on a state-by-state basis, but it doesn’t have the bang it used to. This is partly due to the fact that the player pool is only made up of each individual state. For a great tournament guarantee and cash game selection, you need large player pools. Luckily, there are some great PokerStars alternatives for players in Texas.
Sites like Bovada and Ignition Poker accept players from Texas and the other 49 states in the United States. They have great games running at all hours of the day. They also have great tournament guarantees and solid rakeback options. If you want to read more about these sites, we’ve reviewed them and plenty more extensively. Just check out our reviews below and find a site that works for you:
PokerStars Alternatives for Poker Players in Texas
Legal Gambling in Texas
It can get a little lonely for gamblers in the Lone Star State. There are some gaming options though. Like most states in the United States, Texas has a state lottery. The Texas Lottery started in 1992 and it offers scratch-off tickets, drawing games, and Mega Millions and Powerball Jackpot games.
Charitable gaming is allowed in Texas. Nonprofits and community groups can host bingos and raffles. Raffles were initially struck down by a Texas court in 1973. Voters stepped in to change that. In 1989 voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1989 to allow raffles.
Texas does have horse and greyhound tracks too. The state legalized parimutuel betting in 1933 to help fight the great depression. Then they banned it in 1937. It didn’t come back until Texas voters, yet again, approved a referendum in 1987.
There are tribal casinos in Texas, but it’s an uphill battle. There are three tribes in Texas and each of them operates a casino in the state. The state’s even fought to shut down tribal casinos. Even as recently as 2017, the state filed a suit to shut down the Alabama Coushatta casino.
Texas is a bit behind its people in terms of gambling.
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