Online Gambling Laws: How Texas Prosecutes

Online Gambling Laws in Texas

Online gambling is growing in popularity at a fast pace. Many people have encountered online marketing for online casinos or online poker. While some of these games may seem like nothing more than harmless fun, the truth is that they are illegal under most circumstances. Engaging in online gambling may lead to criminal charges and serious penalties.

Laws regarding online gambling may seem confusing because different states can have very different laws on this type of gambling. Also, some states which allow certain forms of offline gambling may criminalize online gambling. Read on for a clear explanation of these laws in Texas.

Is Online Gambling Illegal in Texas?

The laws regarding gambling in Texas are somewhat complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that gambling can take many forms and occur in many places. It’s helpful to take a broad view of the situation and then take a closer look at some of the specifics of Texas gambling laws.

According to Section 47.02 of the Texas Penal Code, gambling is a criminal offense. This means that, according to the law, it is illegal to make a bet on the outcome of a sporting event, game, contest or election for the purpose of paying out money to the winner of the bet. This is a very broad law that prohibits the operation of casinos, gambling dens or bookmaking operations within the state of Texas.

However, there are some exceptions to the law. For example, it is a defense to prosecution if:

  • The betting occurred in a private place
  • No money was exchanged except for personal winnings
  • The odds of winning for all players were evenly matched except for the influence of skill or luck

So, if John and Alice are watching the Super Bowl at John’s house and they each place a bet on the outcome of the game, they are not liable to criminal prosecution. However, if John rents a public building and invites all of his friends to come over and place bets, he may be charged with an offense.

It is also a defense to prosecution to play a game for a reward that is not monetary on a device which is not listed as a gambling device. So, in some ways, games of chance are legal in Texas.

However, this does not always apply to online gambling. Online gambling takes place on the Internet, which is not a private place. It also involves exchanges of money other than paying out winnings and it can involve an element of chance, rather than pure skill. At this time, online gambling is illegal in Texas.

The Problem of Online Gambling

There are several reasons that online gambling is illegal in Texas. Primarily, it is illegal because it violates Texas’ prohibitions on gambling. It is also illegal at the federal level and many other states have banned it.

The major difference between online and offline gambling is that online gambling occurs in a public forum. This is the case with Internet casinos and other games of chance that are hosted online.

Daily fantasy sports leagues have added a new element to this situation. Sites like FanDuel claim that their services are based on skill, not chance. In Texas, a traditional fantasy sports league held in a private home would be likely exempted from prosecution. However, an online fantasy sports league that charges a fee for participation would violate this law because it occurs in a public forum and money is exchanged other than personal winnings.

Legal Penalties

A person who is convicted on a charge of gambling in a Texas court can face significant penalties. A first-time conviction for gambling can result in a penalty of a $500 fine. Business owners who permit gambling on their property may lose their license to operate a business.

People who engage in online gambling may find themselves facing federal prosecution as well. Internet gambling may be a violation of the Wire Wager Act, opening participants up to federal charges.

At the end of the day, placing a public bet on the outcome of an event and paying a fee to participate is classified as illegal gambling in the state of Texas.

Are you currently facing charges for illegal gambling? Matthew Sharp is an aggessive attorney dedicated to protecting the rights of those accused of crimes. Contact his office today at 713-868-6100.