Gambling: Texas Penal Code §47.02

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Gambling law makes it illegal to gamble on a sports game, a contest, an individual in a contest, a card game, or any political election.

In the 2023 Texas legislative session, there was a push to legalize gambling. But the effort failed, and gambling remains illegal today. Of course, there are many places in Texas where betting is allowed, including parimutuel (horse-racing) wagering, Indian casinos, and offshore cruises. But for the most part, gambling is still illegal.

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Many people would be surprised to know that gambling is still illegal in Texas. Indeed, enforcement of gambling laws is spotty and uneven. The most frequently prosecuted cases we see are of game room owners and operators, along with convenience store and gas station operators.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 47.02. The law was not amended in 2023. The legislature most recently amended the law in 2017 by making. a nonsubstantive reference update. Learn more about other gambling laws here.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Gambling law under Title 10 “Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, And Morals,” Chapter 47 “Gambling.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Gambling below.

What is the current Texas law about Gambling?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Gambling in Penal Code Section §47.02 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if he:

(1) 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;

(2) makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or

(3) plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.

What are the defenses to prosecution?

There are numerous defense to prosecution under this law.[2] These defenses include private gambling (where everyone had equal odds of success), participation in the state lottery and machines “excluded from the definition of ‘gambling device’ under Section 47.01(4)(B)”

Will gambling ever be legal in Texas?

There was a push for the legalization of gambling in 2023, but it did not ultimately succeed.[3] The gambling lobby’s growing influence will undoubtedly make this a semi-annual effort, so this law may very well change.

What are the other gambling laws?

The Gambling law is only one of the crimes related to gambling in Texas.

Other criminal offenses in Texas related to gambling include:

How can I be charged with a Gambling offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Gambling in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 47.02(a) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Gambling in Texas?

As a misdemeanor, Gambling charges have a two-year limitations period.[4]

What is the penalty for a Texas Gambling offense?

A conviction for Gambling in Texas is punished as a Class C misdemeanor,[5] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $500. Learn about the differences between grades of felonies and misdemeanors here.

Can you get probation for Gambling in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Gambling, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[6]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[7]

What level of crime is Gambling in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies Gambling as a Class C misdemeanor.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.

^1. Texas Penal Code §47.02. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Texas Penal Code §47.02(b),(c) & (e)

(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:

(1) the actor engaged in gambling in a private place;

(2) no person received any economic benefit other than personal winnings; and

(3) except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing and the chances of winning were the same for all participants.

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor reasonably believed that the conduct:

(1) was permitted under Chapter 2001, Occupations Code;

(2) was permitted under Chapter 2002, Occupations Code;

(3) was permitted under Chapter 2004, Occupations Code;

(4) consisted entirely of participation in the state lottery authorized by the State Lottery Act (Chapter 466, Government Code);

(5) was permitted under the Texas Racing Act (Article 179e, Vernon’s Texas Civil Statutes); or

(6) consisted entirely of participation in a drawing for the opportunity to participate in a hunting, fishing, or other recreational event conducted by the Parks and Wildlife Department.

Subsection (e) describes another defense.

(e) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that a person played for something of value other than money using an electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance excluded from the definition of “gambling device” under Section 47.01(4)(B).

^3. See Wanna bet? Texas Legislature to reconsider legalizing casinos and sports betting, The Texas Tribune, January 27, 2023^4. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.02(a)^5. Texas Penal Code §47.02(d)

^6. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^7. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure

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