Is Online Poker Legal in Texas?
Legal and not legal – That is the state of gambling and internet poker in the state of Texas. Of course, it is against the law to play poker in a casino in Texas, since it is illegal to run a gambling establishment. However, when it comes to online poker, there may be cause for debate. While some may think that there is some flexibility, perhaps it is more of a very thin line between breaking and maintaining the law when playing online poker.
In 2006, the US online gambling industry received a hit below the belt from the US Congress when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) went into effect. The simplified version of that law says that it prohibits gambling enterprises from accepting a wager from another person while that person uses the internet.
According to the UIGEA, it is illegal to operate an online gaming room in the US. Therefore, there are few options for playing online poker in Texas. To understand the gambling laws in Texas better, let us look at the casino and online gambling laws separately:
This is a no-no in Texas. According to Chapter 47 of Texas Statutes, section 03, it is illegal to knowingly take part in the earnings of a gambling establishment. What is a gambling establishment under the law? This takes us back to chapter 47 section 01 where a gambling establishment is any property, any real estate, or any room whose use includes betting, settling of bets, bookmaking, playing a lottery or playing any of the gambling devices. According to the law above, a casino or anything that may look like a casino is illegal in Texas. Card rooms and poker clubs are also illegal.
But then there is another issue of private gambling. Here you have to make sure that you are not getting revenue from the game and that all players taking part have equal chances of winning. You should not pay a dealer to shuffle the cards for you and you should make sure that all monies collected are used to pay the winners.
If an establishment, say like a hotel is running a poker league, then it must show that it is not earning any profit from the game. It must not charge any entry fee. In the above example poker may be legal in Texas, because it is a game and no profit is made. It is said that since all players taking part will wager the same amount of money and have equal chances of winning, then it is a game of skill.
In January of 2013 there was a bill introduced that would make live poker games legal and regulated in the state. The bill that was introduce was called the Texas Poker Gaming Act of 2013. The bill would change the definition of poker from a game of chance to a game of skill. The new law is only being talked about right now and it is yet to be seen if it will pass.
Online Poker in Texas
The statutes of Texas do not specifically mention online poker. However, federal and state laws are very stringent on online wagering. It is illegal to own and/or operate an online poker room in Texas or the US, except in the States that have legalized online poker within their borders.