You may not have noticed, but another brave attempt to legalize casino gambling in Texas failed earlier this summer. A not-so hotly debated session in the Capitol ended in a predictable outcome: a firm no on expanding gambling efforts – in spite of a lobbying effort worth an estimated $10 million. While that may not seem surprising in light of other political outcomes recently, the current state of gambling in Texas is baffling to most outsiders.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a major city farther from a casino than Austin. The closest casino to the Texan capital city is WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, OK, which is also closest to the DFW metroplex. This leads website onlinecasinoground to conclude that Thackerville serves as the casino hotspot for around 15 million Texans.
History of gambling in Texas
With the tightening grip of the government and a moral sentiment sweeping the nation in the roaring 20s, gambling in Texas was outlawed together with alcohol and other vices. Where these other vices have seen a shift in perception – even in Texas, pornography is no longer illegal, and alcohol is sold in most counties – gambling laws reflect the early 20th century mood better than today’s developments.
Before these restrictions, gambling in Texas looked like it would do in any rough part of the world. Remote towns and big cities alike had thriving gambling halls and casinos, and even prohibition didn’t truly stop Texan casinos. Only after World War II did Texas follow suit with the rest of the United States and did those gambling halls close down. A few big casinos and horse tracks, such as Benny Binion’s track in Arlington, remained open a little longer, but moved to Nevada by the end of the 1950s.
Current state of gambling in Texas
Texas does have a few casinos, all of which are tribe-owned and tucked away in remote parts of the state. It has also seen some efforts to lift restrictions. The most recent attempt was the biggest in decades, and stranded well short of a decent chance of success. This means the current situation will continue for a while longer. Reed more about it here.
The most accepted form of gambling in Texas is known as 8-liners, an automatic gaming machine that resembles a slot machine, but pays out a maximum of $5 in non-cash prizes. Other than that, your grandma’s bingo is allowed, as is the state lottery and parimutuel horse racing.
Then there are two loopholes: casino cruises and tribe casinos. These two options offer the only true casino experience. One is a traditional land-based casino in remote parts of the state. The other requires you to head into international waters. While these two are legitimate ways to enjoy the casino from Texas, neither of them are a much better option to residents of Austin.
Corpus Cristi, one of the closer ports, is a 3.5 hour drive away, and booking a cruise on top of your casino visit quickly adds to the cost. A visit to Lucky Eagle Casino is just a bit closer.
Future of gambling
After the latest disappointing results of an extensive lobby, it might be a while before a solid effort is launched again. In the meantime, the rest of the country is swaying in another direction. Online gambling is now regulated in Delaware, California, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
The online gambling industry has been growing rapidly. Before the United States Supreme Court decided to legalize sports betting in 2018, Americans spent an estimated $150 billion on the practice. Many states have swiftly implemented regulations for online sports betting, eager to harvest the taxes.
For Texas, such a change seems decades away. Whatever happens next in Austin’s views on gambling, in the coming years it’s a safer bet to take the drive to Thackerville than to gamble on a change in regulation.