Texas is the largest state in America in the rankings that mean anything. In terms of land, the state is larger than 268,000 square miles in total, and here there are over 28 million residents. Since Texas has such a large population, you would think it would follow the other states with a large population in what gambling is concerned.
Contrary to this statement, Texas doesn’t have many casinos at all, in fact currently there are just two. Being a populous state and having such a large area, just two casinos is something that hardly seems enough to cover their citizen’s needs.
Gambling Scenario in Texas
Some say that the situation of gambling in Texas is a tragedy because it’s a state with deep gambling traditions but currently doesn’t have many legal options available. Slots are illegal, and even if tribal lands are an exception, from the three tribal casinos that opened doors in the last years, only 2 are still open, and one of those has an ongoing legal battle against the Texas state.
Online gambling is also illegal, so flying to Nevada, Delaware of New Jersey to gamble online doesn’t offer much appeal, while playing slots or poker for fun in online social casinos isn’t the same thing.
One of the existing legal casinos is the Lucky Eagle, located close to the Mexican border in Eagle Pass, on the Kickapoo reservation. The casino exists under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and opened doors in 1996, has been steadily growing to its current dimension: over 3.300 slots, poker room, bingo, several restaurants, and a hotel.
Just to understand the dimension of Texas state and how few two casinos are, it’s interesting to mention that the Lucky Eagle Casino is 30 minutes away driving from San Antonio, 3 hours from Austin, and 5 hours from Houston and Dallas. Quite a long trip to play at the casino.
The other available casino in Texas is the Naskila Entertainment Center, recently reopened, sitting on the Alabama-Coushatta tribal lands, close to Livingston, a town less than 100 miles from Houston. This casino had been open from 1999-2002 as a small casino with slots, poker, and some table games, but legal action from the state closed it for more than 10 years.
In 2015, the National Indian Gaming Commission reopened the Naskila, but the state continues to fight that decision. A third casino existed, the Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso, which also closed in 2002. Even if the Speaking Rock casino is reopened, it would only serve the residents of El Paso, as the city is 8 hours drive away from other major cities in Texas.
Causes and consequences of this scenario
This legal complication between state and tribes is caused by a legislature that accepts money from casinos in other states with the goal to keep Texas without casinos. The current Texas governor received its largest donation from the WinStar Casino in Oklahoma, and the purpose is obvious, maintain or increase the nearly $3 billion spending from Texas citizens that play across the border on casinos from neighboring states.
The lack of gaming options has generated it’s the number of crimes, fines, and people being arrested, as well as a flourishing underground gambling scene. These illegal parlors offering slots and other gambling options are permanently endangered by police raids or being violently robbed, but are, sadly, the best alternatives for those who don’t wish to make long drives to New Mexico, Oklahoma or Louisiana.
Types of Gambling in Texas
Finally, what is it possible to gamble in Texas? Apart from the few and distant casinos, the restrictions leave available bingo, when offered by charities, and greyhound and horse racing, available in 8 tracks across the state with on-site wagering.
The land-based casinos can be used at age 21, and the other forms of gambling in Texas include pari-mutuel betting which is available to players at 21 as well. There are several different tracks around the state where players will have horse racing bets to be made.
As mentioned above, Charity Bingo is one of the few choices for players who are 18 and over. The lottery is also offered in Texas as well as 36 other states. Players in Texas can pick from games like Powerball, Mega Millions, Pick 3, Pick 4, Scratchers, Cash 5, Lotto Texas and other options as well.
Curiosity: Texas is known for many things, and one of which is Texas Hold’em Poker, which isn’t played within the state as much as many would think. Most likely the most famous poker game in the world is named after Texas and is illegal to be played there.