Texans love to gamble, though the state government does not allow casino gambling. Most Texas gamblers drive to big casinos in Oklahoma and Lousiana for their gaming fun. Texas has legal pari-mutuel betting at racetracks, charitable bingo betting, and lottery gaming. Texans also can gamble at online casinos without legal issues.

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Online Gambling: Texas Guide

Texans who gamble online have no fear of prosecution. While Texas has strict laws against land-based gambling and enforces them against tribal casinos in court, individual online gamblers can play without fear of fines or prosecution. Instead, Texas bettors play at offshore online casinos, bookmaker sites, and poker sites. Online gambling operators based in Texas would be prosecuted, but Texans can play at their will. The key is finding safe online gambling sites.

In this article, we discuss Texas gaming laws, including existing statutes, current gaming bills, and online gambling laws. Our Texas guide has a timeline of Texas gambling history, plus a list of current land-based Texas gambling venues. For those who have questions, we include an FAQ section. Most importantly, we include unbiased reviews of the most trustworthy online casinos that accept Texas gamblers.

Texas Gambling Laws

Texas regulates most gambling types: racetracks, lottery betting, charitable gambling, and even land-based tribal casinos. Texas cities have the right to allow 8-liners (in convenience stores) and poker clubs. Local law enforcement has a major role in whether these exist.

The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino is the only legal land-based casino in Texas. The Lucky Eagle, which operates in Eagle Pass on the border between Texas and Mexico, operates as a tribal casino with Class II gaming. Two other operations, Naskila Gaming and Speaking Rock Entertainment, fight for the legal right to operate.

Legislators like State Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, Eduard Lucio III, and Joe Moody fight to expand gambling. In the past three years, each has sponsored a sports betting or daily fantasy sports bill.

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Texas Land Based Casinos

The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel is the only casino that operates without federal lawsuits. Naskila Entertainment and Screaming Eagle Casino each fight with the State of Texas over their legal status.

The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle in Eagle Pass is federally recognized, because Texas never seized the Kickapoo Tribe’s reservation lands. Texas seized the lands of the Tigua Tribe and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe in the 1950s and 1960, and continues to argue that the tribes don’t have the right to host casinos these days.

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Texas Legal Betting Tracks

Texas hosts three horse tracks and a couple of dog tracks. Only one of the dog tracks has live races anymore.

Texas legalized pari-mutuel betting at horse tracks in 1933. Like other gambling laws from the 30s, legalization happened to raise tax revenues during the Great Depression. Legalization didn’t last long, as Gov. James Allred imposed a ban that would last until 1987.

In 1987, the Texas legislature legalized pari-mutuel wagering a second time. State law gives the Texas Racing Commission the right to oversee the four classes of licensing.

The three Class I horse tracks are Sam Houston Race Park (Houston), Retama Park (Selma), and Lone Star Park (Grand Prairie — a suburb of Dallas). These three tracks are located in the Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas metropolitan centers, respectively.

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Texas Off-Track Betting

Texas does not allow off-track betting, though all six tracks have simulcasting and off-track betting.

Pari-mutuel bettors must visit the tracks to enjoy OTB-like pari-mutuel gambling.

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Texas Charitable Bingo Halls

Texas has many charitable bingo halls — 1,012 as of 2018.

226 of the 254 counties in Texas host bingo halls operated by local charitable gaming organizations. In 2018, Texas bingo halls handed out $622 million in prize money.

The maximum prize amount for Texas bingo games is $750, which indicates how many bingo halls feed into that $622 million total.

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Texas Social Gaming

Texans can host private poker games, but they cannot collect a rake. Anyone who collects a rake is running an illegal poker game.

Social gaming sites like Slotomania, Big Fish Gaming, Double Down Casino, and Zynga allow players to play online casino games and poker. Players cannot accept casino rewards as payment, so a site like MyMGM would be illegal in Texas.

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Texas Poker Clubs

Many bars and private clubs in Texas host poker games. These venues don’t collect a rake, but they do charge an up-front fee, seat license fees, or exorbitant amounts for food and drink. Some local officials see these as the same as a poker rake, so enforcement comes down to local officials.

Texas Gambling Timeline & History

Texas casino laws can be confusing, because it treats various tribal casinos differently. Texas has two legal land-based casinos. These are the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass (on the Rio Grande River) and Naskila Gaming in Livingston (in East Texas). A third tribal gaming center, Speaking Rock Entertainment Center, operates at times but is in a protracted legal battle with the State of Texas. A Texas judge shut down the Tigua tribe’s gaming center in 2019.

Texas has a number of pari-mutuel race tracks. The Lone Star State even has legal dog racing tracks — a rarity in the USA anymore — though only 1 of the 3 dog tracks have live races. Most horse tracks and dog tracks offer off-track betting and therefore operate at OTB facilities with simulcasting.

Lawmakers and state officials take a dim view of most gambling. In 2018, the Texas legislature even refused to pass a law legalizing traditional fantasy football — leagues, not DFS sites. Because legal land-based casino gaming is so rare, Texans drive to nearby out of state casinos for fun. Dallas gamblers drive to the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma and the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma, which are an hour north of the DFW Metroplex. Houston gamblers drive to the nine casinos in Lake Charles, Louisiana — which are about two and a half hours out of Houston. 90% of the patrons at those venues are Texans.

That being said, Texas local officials allow a variety of betting types. Poker clubs exist in the cities, though local law enforcement occasionally shut down the games. Texas convenience stores feature 8-liners or maquinadas, gaming machine very similar to slot machines. These are legal, so long as the local town sanctions it and the owners don’t pay out in cash.

  • 1993: Tigua Tribe Opens Speaking Rock Casino

    Tigua Tribe Speaking Rock Casino

    The Tigua Tribe opened the Speaking Rock gaming facility in 1993. The Tigua tribe claimed a 1986 US Supreme Court case (California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians) and subsequent U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 gave them the right to host a casino.

    Several Texas governors since 1993 have taken the opposite position. The State of Texas and Tigua Tribe have battled over the matter in court for years.

  • 2002: Texas Wins Speaking Rock Casino Lawsuit

    Texas vs Tigua Tribe

    Then-Gov. Rick Perry’s administration won a lawsuit against the Tigua Tribe in 2002, when a judge ruled on behalf of Texas that the Tigua Tribe didn’t have the right under federal law to host a gaming venue. The Tigua would appeal the decision, which would stay in the federal court system for years.

  • January 16, 2016: Ken Paxton Declares DFS Illegal Gambling

    Ken Paxton Daily Fantasy Sports

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to the daily fantasy sports controversy by declaring DFS illegal in the State of Texas. While Paxton said that DFS might involve skill, it also had elements of chance that made it illegal.

    It was a non-binding opinion, but the main DFS sites responded to Paxton’s statement. FanDuel stopped accepting Texas real money players, while DraftKings filed a federal lawsuit against Paxton.

  • 2016: Naskila Gaming vs. State of Texas

    Naskila Gaming vs Texas

    Since 2016, Naskila Gaming and the State of Texas have been in a legal battle over the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe’s right to host gambling on its reservation lands.

  • March 14, 2019: Federal Court Rules Against Naskila Gaming

    Federal Court Ruling Naskila Gaming

    On March 14, 2019, US District Judge Philip Martinez ruled against the Naskila Gaming complex in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Alabama-Coushatta tribe appealed a previous decision that it had violated state law by hosting Class II (bingo-based) gaming machines at its complex.

  • 2019: Tigua Tribe and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe Disputes

    Texas Flag

    According to Texas Monthly, the Tigua Tribe and Alabama-Coushatta Tribe face different legal hurdles than the Kickapoo Tribe. A 2019 issue stated: “The battle revolves around the 1987 federal Restoration Act, which reinstated the U.S. government’s responsibility for Tigua and Alabama-Coushatta lands. Most Native American land is officially owned by the federal government but held for the benefit of a particular tribe, in what’s known as a trust relationship.

    “From the 1940s through the 1960s, federal policy sought to assimilate Native Americans by eliminating recognition of many tribes and dissolving the trust relationships. That’s what happened to the Tigua (in 1968) and the Alabama-Coushatta (in 1954), when trusteeship of their lands was transferred to the state of Texas.

    “However, in 1985, Texas attorney general Jim Mattox ruled that this trust relationship violated a 1972 state constitutional amendment, which left the tribes without any recognized legal status. Without a trust relationship with either the state or federal government, the tribes said, they faced bankruptcy or other financial challenges. So, the Tigua and Alabama-Coushatta sought to reinstate their federal recognition—and the access to federal services for tribes that accompany it—via the Restoration Act.”

  • June 1, 2017: Daily Fantasy Sports Bill Fails in Texas Legislature

    Texas Legislature

    Rep. Richard Pena Raymond submitted House Bill 1457 to the Texas Legislature. HB 1457 sought to legalize and regulated DFS gaming in the State of Texas. FanDuel and DraftKings both backed the bill.

    Instead, HB 1457 died in legislative session, despite widespread support among Texas residents. Pena Raymond said at the time he had “never seen something have so much support across the board from the most conservative to the most liberal” residents.

  • February 4, 2019: Eduard Lucio III Sponsors Sports Betting Bill

    Arkansas Sports Betting

    In February 2019, State Rep. Eduard Lucio III introduced House Bill 1275 to the Texas House. This bill would have legalized and regulated sports betting. The bill died in committee later that year.

  • February 4, 2019: Eduard Lucio III Sponsored House Joint Resolution 61

    Texas Sports Betting Bill

    On the same day, Eddie Lucio introduced HJR 61 — a bill to host a statewide referendum on legal sports betting in Texas. Like HB 1275, HJR 61 never received a floor vote in the Texas legislature.

  • 2019: HB 2303 Fantasy Sports Bill

    Texas Daily Fantasy Sports Bill

    In 2019, State Rep. Joe Moody introduced House Bill 2303 to the Texas House. The bill would classify fantasy sports as a game of skill — thus making it legal.

    Originally, the Texas House passed HB 2303 by a 116-27 vote. On May 2, 2019, the House voted to give the measure final approval, sending it to the Texas Senate.  The Senate did not pass the bill, though.

  • November 18, 2020: HB 393 Introduced to Texas House

    Joe Moody Fantasy Sports Bill

    In November 2020, Rep. Joe Moody (pictured right) once against introduced a fantasy sports bill to the Texas House — HB 309. Given the margin HB 2303 passed in the House in 2019, HB 309 should pass in the Texas House in 2021. If so, the Texas Senate again would decide its fate.

    If the bill passed and Gov. Greg Abbott signs it into law, then fantasy sports would become legal and regulated in Texas on September 1, 2021.

  • February 22, 2021: US Supreme Court Gives Tigua Tribe Hope

    US Supreme Court

    In February 2021, the US Supreme Court asked the Acting US Solicitor General to state his opinion on the Tigua Tribe’s federal case. The US Solicitor General is a high ranking member of the US Department of Justice who represents the DOJ before the Supreme Court. The SCOTUS opinion said, “The Acting Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States.”

    Todd Curry, a political science professor at UTEP, said the decision shows Justice Gorsuch’s growing influence on tribal issues. Curry told the El Paso Herald Post, “It’s really a new ball game with Gorsuch on the court. He is an advocate for tribes in the U.S., and really is changing the landscape for how these cases play out.”

    The professor added that Texas is an outlier on tribal gaming law, so the decision to appeal to US DOJ official’s opinion is a good sign for the Tigua Tribe. Curry added tribal gaming “is an area where Texas really is different, and I think the justices are looking for an independent opinion.”