Keeping a gambling place in Texas is the criminal offense of allowing someone to use premises for gambling. This offense is commonly used to bust gaming rooms and mom-and-pop gas stations that have gambling machines that give out tokens or tickets that could be exchanged for something of value.
Texas has some of the strictest gambling laws in the nation – and most confusing. While it’s legal to bet on horse races, buy a lottery ticket, or participate in office pools, basically any other semblance of gambling is against the law. This includes operating game rooms with eight-liners or video slot machines that pay out cash prizes.
In Texas, keeping a gambling place is a criminal offense. This law was created to help prevent the proliferation of illegal gambling operations in the state. However, some feel that this law goes too far and unfairly targets business owners. In North Texas, it is not uncommon for owners of gas stations, truck stops, or convenience stores with eight-liners to be arrested and for police to seize motherboards from the machines or the machines themselves.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the law against keeping a gambling place in Texas and explore the controversy surrounding it and the consequences of violating it. If you or a loved one have been accused of a gambling offense in North Texas, call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with an experienced gambling attorney and find out how we can fight your charges.
Under Texas law, a person commits illegal gambling if he or she:
So, it’s illegal to gamble on sports, elections or play games like poker or eight-liners for money in Texas.
According to Texas Penal Code 47.04, a person commits the offense of “keeping a gambling place if he or she “knowingly uses or permits another to use as a gambling place any real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat or other property whatsoever owned by him or under his control or rents or lets any such property with a view or expectation that it be so used.”
As you can see, this is a very broad definition that basically encompasses everything and anything that could be used as a gambling venue. This includes not only eight-liner rooms or video poker bars, but also vehicles, boats and even tents. Casinos are also illegal in Texas.
The use of eight-liners and video poker machines has been a source of controversy for decades. Texas outlaws the use of gambling devices, such as eight-liners. However, there is a loophole – known as the “fuzzy animal exception” – which allows game rooms to operate eight-liners under the condition that they award cashless prizes or prizes that aren’t worth more than $5 or 10 times more than the game’s cost.
Oftentimes, undercover officers will go into gas stations, truck stops or game rooms with eight-liners to ensure that the machine or business owner is not paying out cash or exceeding the statutory minimum prize amount. If they see a violation, they will obtain a warrant and arrest the business owner on the charge of keeping a gambling place and seize the motherboards or machines.
Keeping a gambling place in Texas is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $4,000 fine. The gaming machines or their motherboards can also be seized by police.
What is the punishment for keeping a gambling place if alleged as Engaging in Organized Crime?
Alleging that the offense was engaging in organized crime bumps it up to a State Jail Felony in Texas.
Busts of gambling establishments often make headlines. Here’s a look at some arrest stories around the Lone Star State:
Yes, there are several affirmative defenses to keeping a gambling place in Texas. An affirmative defense allows a defendant to avoid criminal responsibility for the offense. If you can show that any of the following occurred, you can avoid prosecution for keeping a gambling place in Texas:
1) The gambling occurred in a private place;
2) No one 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.
It’s important to note that, just because there are legal defenses available, doesn’t mean you won’t get arrested. These defenses would likely be raised until the case progresses through the system, or even goes to trial. It’s important to contact an experienced attorney who understands the intricacies of Texas’ gambling law if you have been accused of any gambling crime, even if you believe you were operating legally and under the law.
The law against keeping a gambling place in Texas is confusing and often results in unfair arrests and charges. If you’ve been accused of keeping a gambling place, contact Varghese Summersett today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with an experienced gambling attorney. We have defended numerous people in your situation and we can help you, too.