The growth in internet connectivity has led to a rise in online services that only used to be provided in brick and mortar stores. Online gambling is no different as enterprising individuals have naturally sought to make use of technology to turn a profit. The state of Texas is known for its heavy-handedness in regulating gambling activity and those who enable the hobby.
Although it is illegal to run a poker room with the intention of turning a profit, does the state have a special set of Texas laws on online gambling? If the answer is yes, are they as punitive as the ones that regulate physical gambling clubs?
Before discussing Texas gambling laws, it’s important to understand why so many people are eager to engage in the lucrative online gambling business.
Advantages of Online Gambling
One advantage of online gambling is that it is very convenient. One doesn’t have to leave the house in order to engage in the activity. He or she can even do so from the comfort of the bedroom. All that is required is a computer, internet connection, and a credit card or other form of online payment. The simplicity of signing up combined with the instant nature of the process makes it quite attractive.
Another advantage is the wide selection of games, unlike physical game rooms. Some of the most popular games on offer include blackjack, Omaha, Texas hold’em, 7 Card Stud, slots, roulette, and baccarat. The beauty of online gambling is that these games work exactly like they do in the real world.
Online casino games also offer the player comfort and greater control over how he or she spends money. It’s very easy to pick bet sizes and limit the amount of money to be spent on stakes. Most websites even offer free online games, loyalty points, and bonus points as rewards for spending time and money on their site.
Perhaps the biggest advantage offered by online gambling is its global presence. Unlike the restrictions imposed on players in physical gambling clubs, online casinos offer their services to clients all over the world. For that reason, Texas laws on online gambling would not be as easily and aggressively enforced as they are in physical game rooms.
Texas Laws on Online Gambling
The state of Texas does not expressly forbid online gambling. Since it doesn’t also expressly permit it, some confusion arises over its legality. While it is illegal to register and operate an online gambling website in the state of Texas, it’s not illegal to access and play on offshore websites. As stated before, the global nature of the internet means it is very easy for a Texas resident to access non-Texas based websites.
Due to the profitable nature of gambling, some attempts have been made by interested parties to have online gambling legalized in Texas. Although the state has shown its trademark resistance to these attempts, there are currently three poker-related bills that have been filed in Texas:
- The Poker Gaming Act of 2013, also known as HB292, which tries to regulate and authorize poker games in bingo halls and similar public facilities in the state of Texas.
- The Social Poker Gaming Act of 2013, or HB2098, which is an attempt to regulate facilities that offer social poker gambling.
- HB3529 which attempts to regulate online poker in the state through interpretation of federal law.
Although these bills haven’t passed yet, the fact that they’re being considered by the notoriously gambling-averse state gives a glimmer of hope to those seeking to make investments should Texas laws on online gambling relent.
As things stand, opening and operating an online gambling site in the state of Texas is illegal. There are three main laws that touch on this:
Federal Gambling Laws
The fast growth and evolution of the internet creates a lot of confusion in the interpretation of federal laws on online gambling. Some common federal laws that affect online gambling include the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Although PASPA covers sports betting, such laws can be amended to include online gambling.
With constant innovation in the technology sector, it can be hard to tell whether updated online gambling activities meet legal requirements.
The Wire Wager Act
Also known as the Federal Wire Act. The Supreme Court is yet to rule on whether its provisions apply to online gambling or just sports betting. This federal law forbids the use of a wire communication facility to engage in the business of betting or wagering. The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has also been proposed, with the potential to expand the Federal Wire Act to include casino and poker gambling.
The law presents another dilemma for online gambling operators because a computer or other internet enabled device can be interpreted as a wire communication facility.
While federal law supersedes state law, some states still apply a stricter interpretation of federal laws than others. While some only punish operators, others punish players as well. At the moment, the state of Texas is yet to prosecute anyone for playing in an online casino.
As is apparent from the above information, online gambling operators still operate in a legal gray zone. A more aggressive enforcement of existing laws or a slight change in the interpretation of both state and federal laws could see one charged with breaking gambling laws. Because such an outcome can lead to heavy fines or even jail term, it’s important to seek the expert opinion of a qualified attorney before operating or joining an online gambling site in Texas.
What to Consider Before Gambling Online in Texas
The confusing nature of Texas laws on online gambling means one should exercise utmost caution before engaging in the activity. Some of the measures to take before operating or joining an online gambling site include:
- Ensuring the online casino is legally registered and allowed to operate in the United States of America.
- Strictly enforcing the legal gambling age depending on what online game is offered.
- Keeping personal and financial information offered by online clients safe and confidential. Online gambling sites are subjected to heavy scrutiny by law enforcement in order to prevent identity theft and money laundering activities.
- Doing an online search of online casinos to determine whether they’re legitimate. The reviews posted online most times provide useful information.
- Seeking the opinion of a qualified expert like an attorney who understands Texas gambling law. Pleading ignorance in a court of law is not an acceptable form of defense.
When Online Gambling Becomes a Problem
Whether already accused of breaking online gambling laws or simply concerned about the ambiguity of the law, our attorneys will set the record straight. With years of experience defending against gambling charges, we provide our clients with personalized attention to ensure they’re prepared to successfully battle the charges brought against them. Call The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp – we’re always ready and willing to assist those in need of a more precise explanation of Texas laws on gambling.