Is Gambling Illegal?

The federal government, and to a lesser extent Texas, expends a vast amount of energy and resources prosecuting individuals associated with gambling crimes. This includes bookmakers and companies that assist in the placement of bets and collection of gambling debts.

Is Gambling Illegal under Federal Law?

One of the most common federal statutes used to prosecute interstate gambling crimes is found in 18 USC 1084 which criminalizes using any wire medium, such as phone lines or the internet, to transmit wagering information. This statute also makes the proceeds associated with gambling subject to asset forfeiture.

For example, if a bookmaker uses the internet to place a bet online on behalf of customers and does so from a state where such a wager is illegal, then that person transmitted wagering information in violation of federal law. Many online poker sites have been targeted for such prosecutions.

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Is Gambling Illegal in Texas?

In Texas, a person commits the offense of gambling if the person makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest. A bet is an agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance. It specifically excludes an offer or a prize or award to the actual contestants in a bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength, or endurance or to the owners of animals, vehicles, watercraft, or aircraft entered in a contest. It is a defense to prosecution if no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings. Under Texas Penal Code sections 47.01 through 47.06, the state also criminalizes gambling by disallowing any bookmaker to record or forward more than five bets in 24 hours. Operating establishments that qualify as gambling places or possessing gambling devices is also illegal.

In both the federal and Texas systems, these offenses can support the forfeiture of any proceeds or equipment linked to gambling crimes. Further, crimes associated with gambling, such as money laundering and wire fraud, often accompany internet gambling cases.

Keeping a Gambling Place in Texas

In Texas, it is illegal to operate a casino. Keeping a place of gambling, communicating gambling information, or possessing a gambling device with intent to further gambling (such as renting slot machines for parties) are all illegal actions that are punishable by the Texas law. There is an exception for Indian reservations, where casino-style facilities are allowed in some locations.

Social Gambling in Texas

On the other hand, a Texas resident cannot be penalized for social gambling. This is considered gambling in games such as bingo or in raffles that are sponsored by charitable organizations. Also, bona fide contests of skill where money is involved are also allowed in the state.

There are also racetrack licenses for greyhound racing in the state. Those who participate in simulcast races and on-track pari-mutuel wagering are not breaking the law and will not be penalized for their actions. Also, licensed horse racing is permitted in the state of Texas and residents are permitted to bet on simulcast races and on-track parimutuel wagering.

Crimes Related to Lotteries in Texas

It is a crime to steal, forge, or alter tickets for the lottery, and to sell tickets at a greater price than originally listed. Also, it is considered fraud to influence the selection of the lottery winner. Individuals who attempt to do this can be penalized. In addition to this, in Texas it is illegal to sell lottery tickets to minors or to make lottery ticket sales over the phone.

Contact us

Are you or a loved one facing charges related to gambling? Call us today at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session. Our team of former prosecutors and Board Certified Criminal Lawyers are here to help. During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

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